Sunday, November 17, 2013

I Don't Think Japan Really Understands Coasters: Fuji Q Highland

Before I even say anything, the accompanying pictures are here. Read along!

So a couple hours away from my apartment is Fuji Q Highland, a little amusement park by Mt. Fuji that I've heard as some awesome rollercoasters. Yesterday my friend and I decided that we are going to get the hell out of the city and actually do something for once, so off we went! The bus left at 6:50, so it was an early day. At first, we couldn't find the bus, so we go underground to cross the street to get to what we think is the bus, and when we climb the stairs and look where we just were, what do we see? Our bus. Sigh.

So the way the bus tickets worked, we had until 5:35 to run around this park until out bus left. It was also a random Saturday in November. It can't possibly be that crowded, so we should have no problem hitting these four rollercoasters and seeing everything else we wanted to see with ease! Right?

It was a good theory anyway.

Well we got there early enough that together we waited about a half hour for Fujiyama, a merry coaster that only took about a half hour wait. However, the other three coasters in the park are a little more...unique.

Takabisha does well...this:


That's a 90 degree straight up followed by a 121 degree drop. Dondonpa is akin to Top Thrill Dragster in that it goes 107mph in 2 seconds. And finally Eejyanaika is a coaster in the side-style of Gatekeeper, but the seats are free to flip backwards and forwards while you are riding the coaster. These things are all right up my alley, but unfortunately my friend is not a xcore coaster junkie like myself, so we split up for a while so I could get all of the coasters out of the way.

First, Takabisha was a decent hour and a bit wait, with a secure feeling double seatbelt. Also, each coaster had free (locking) lockers by the train so you could just throw your stuff into it and get it right after. Why can't anyone else do this? Each train is only 4 people, but they were moving at a decent pace. I was surprised that the beginning of the ride isn't this monster, but there were some hills and spins indoors before you went out to that hill. Going up the hill was (unsurprisingly) terrifying, but the drop after was so small and slow that it was kind of disappointing. The rest of the ride didn't have the speed to make it anything special. I still enjoyed it though.

Next I jumped in line for Dondonpa, the launch coaster. It said the wait was only 1hr and 50 minutes, but this was not so. The thing had several cars running, but each train only held 8 people. Eight people! So it took two and a half hours. Ugh. It was fun (I love the launch types), but unlike Dragster the hill isn't right after the launch; you go down the track a bit and then you go up the crazy hill. So I kind of like Dragster better in that sense, but it was nice that the ride was longer than thirty seconds. And of course, on every coaster they tell you exactly where the picture spot is. God forbid you take a bad photo.

So because this one took so long, it was already almost 2 o clock, and I was concerned if we stopped for lunch I might not have time to ride the spinning one that I was most looking forward to. So I grabbed some food (I was not the only person eating in line) and jumped in the next line for Eejyanaika, which said 2 hrs and 10 minute wait, so God knows what that could mean. As I sat in line, I watched the track. There was a yellow car that would come out, but there was a long gap of time in which there was no car on the coaster. 

They had one train for this ride.

I was on fire. It wasn't even a crowded day! How ridiculous could this line be when it was actually busy!? Happily, I saw a blue car come out. ...Then, I saw the blue car again. And again. There was a brief period of time that they had another train, but then they got rid of the original? I don't know. But then miracle of miracles, both trains were consistently running. Because of this, the line was only about an hour and forty. Why couldn't they have done this in the first place?! I don't understand. The efficiency in all of the coaster lines was severely lacking, and it was pissing me off.

Luckily this coaster was fantastic, and it made me feel better. First, the boarding process was hella confusing. On the other coasters, they told you what number to stand by after checking your ticket (I had a free pass, but if you came in and only wanted to ride a couple things you only needed to buy tickets for rides instead of one expensive admission ticket. Admission was very cheap in itself). However, this coaster had little pods of people with locker stations, and I didn't quite hear which I was supposed to go to. I went to the one that looked like people were getting on from, and put my stuff in a locker. Then happily the nice lady told me the number to stand on. Then she said something that I assumed was make sure all of your stuff is in the locker, so I wasn't really paying attention. Then, when the gate opened to ride the ride, everyone had their shoes off so I was like 'crap,' and hurriedly took my shoes off to walk to my seat. 

The seat strap itself was the most confusing and terrifying thing ever. The lady had to do it for me. First, there was a seat belt, and then I looked for the overhead bar and there wasn't one? She told me to put my arms out, and I put on a heavy restraint like a vest. However, both sides didn't quite reach each other so there was a little seat belt to keep them together. Then there was another belt to hold those that down. I was not appeased. As we went up the hill (backwards) I was freaking out just a little bit.

I may or may not have been muttering The straps closed like a door, they can open like a door omg the whole way up the hill as I had an iron grip on the pair.

Then we went over the hill and turned around, and then I literally turned around and flipped backwards and flipped forwards and the ride was flipping and it was awesome. Terrifying, but super awesome.

So luckily, my friend and I had an hour and a half to actually do things together! We did some Fuji Q Purikura (why not) before riding giant yoyos (swings). The pole for the swings was as tall as the coaster next to it--cold, but fun. Then we rode the Ferris Wheel (what does Japan do better) and went shopping before walking through the little free area in front to the bus. Said free area was completely Christmas covered and playing Elvis Christmas music >.<

So although I didn't have time to play the Gundam game, or go ice skating (they had ice skating lol), or just...not be in line, it was a really fun time! It's a small little park, but I really enjoyed it (and that rollercoaster) and would definitely like to go back!


P.S. This park also has one of the most scary haunted houses in the world, but you couldn't pay me enough. That is all. XP  

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Photo Drop

Woo, it hasn't been a month yet! I figured since I've actually been doing things this weekend, I will write a blog post. Before that, I should put up pictures from all the other stuff I blogged about before I had the capability to post pictures. I know there are some people that read my blog that don't have Facebook (Dad) so here are some pictures!

Here is Orientation and Fireworks, One Piece in ShizuokaObon, and Climbing Mt. Fuji! Hoo!

Here are some pictures from a few things I did not blog about: small adventures if you will. About a month ago a few of my friends and I rode the train to Shimizu to see a ship called the Nippon Maru that was here for a little while. It is a ship with a huge amount of sails that has sailed around the world over...40 times? A lot of times. Anyway, the weather was less than stellar that day, but we sat out there with our umbrellas because we wanted to see them open all the sails. And what fortune, we got there as soon as they started opening the sails! Yay!

Well, we had plenty of time, because there were a lot of sails. Over an hour later, and they finally finished opening all the damn sails. But I am very glad we waited; it was really nice to see!

Also at the end of that album are pictures from Daidogei, a huge showcase/festival/variety show downtown once a year in Shizuoka. My friends would tell me to bring a ladder or a step stool, and I thought they were kidding.

They weren't kidding. It was super crowded, so I didn't get to see much of the shows. But this is okay, because there was FUNNEL CAKE there. I was a very happy baby. The threat of bad weather scared some people off, so it wasn't as crowded as last year I'm told, but I wasn't going to buy a para scope (because you totally could) to see. We had a good time!

Next up, Fuji Q!

Friday, October 25, 2013

A Day in the Life: Junior High #1

Well hey there. I have fallen quite behind on this, and I completely blame the lack of Internet in the early days. I kept thinking Oooh! I'll have to blog about this when I get Internet! and the like, and when I finally did get Internet (after gorging myself on American television and anime) I felt like there was a huge pile of blogs that were needing to be written and I didn't want to do it. So, we are just starting from right now! Making life easy.

I'm meeting one of my speaking partners in an hour, so I will be making a separate post of all my pictures so far because not everyone has the Facebook :D

SO this post is to tell you about my days at my current junior high, which I will call Junior High #1. I am called an ALT: Assistant Language Teacher, and as I am a city ALT I rotate from junior high to junior high every so many months depending on the size of the school. My current school is only 200 students, and as such I will be transferring to Junior High #2 after November 8th. I am most sad and nervous because I really like JH #1. But anyway, some important vocabulary first. In Japan, Elementary Schools (which I will talk about at a later date) are from 1st-6th grade, Junior High is 7-9th grade, and High School is 10-12. In Japanese, ~nensei means year student. So at junior high, there are ichinensei (first graders/ 7th graders), ninensei (second graders/8th graders), and sannensei (third graders/ 9th graders). So it is easiest for me to say ichinensei, ninensei, and sannensei, so this is a helpful key so you know who I am talking about!

Also, more vocabulary: JTE= Japanese Teachers of English. These are the English teachers at each school that I work with. At JH#1, I only have 2 JTEs, and they are awesome. I sit across from the one, and I go to her classes most of the time. The other teaches the ichinensei (and one sannensei class), so I only see her students some of the time, but they are both really nice and we work really well together.

So, now I will present: A typical day at JH#1 for me! From my apartment, I take a train and bus to get there; it takes about a half hour, which is heaven compared to my forty minute drive in the freezing snow when I was doing student teaching. Before I even step in the school, I take off my shoes. In the entranceway to the school, there are little shoe lockers to put your shoes in, and I change to my indoor shoes. (They have slippers for guests). Because inside/outside is very important in Japan, you change shoes. So, because of this, you see a lot of people wearing suits, professional wear....and tennis shoes XD So I wear my tennis shoes to school every day, regardless (although they just barely fit in the shoe locker next to each other, gotta love gaijin [foreigner] feet).

Then, I head to my desk in the teachers room. Unlike America, the teacher's room is a bustling place: students come in and out all the time. This is because also unlike America, students do not change classrooms. One homeroom stays in the same place, and the teachers rotate. So if you need to talk to a teacher / get a key / anything, you need to come to the teacher's room. The students also come get the teacher's for class. So, when I am going to the classes of the JTE that sits across from me, when the students come to get her, she makes them ask me to come to class as well. In English of course. It is super cute, and I love it! :D

So in the morning, there is a homeroom time before the first four periods of the day. Each period is 50 minutes. If I don't have a class, I sit at my desk and study, prepare for other lessons, write, or even read (but lately I've been super busy so just studying typically). If I have a class, we go to class! At class, I do a variety of things. The common thing is to read things. Because I am a native speaker, accent is important. But I also get to create nice grammar activities for the students as well. This school does not have technology in the classrooms, (but it does have the most colored variety of chalk I've ever seen), so I have many many laminated blown up pictures for various lessons (so now I have laminated pictures of me in grade school, my house, family, etc.).

After fourth period is school lunch, or kyuushoku. In theory, it is from 12:30 until 1. Not so. Teachers do not get to kyuushoku (which is like in a PTA room, because students eat in their classrooms) around 12:40, so we really only have 15 minutes to eat. This was really hard in the beginning for me. But luckily, our kyuushoku is self serve, so I just take small portions of everything and there isn't a problem. My favorite joke about kyuushoku:

"It's like 5 minutes ago, I was super hungry, and now I am ridiculously full, and I can't figure out why..."

Because lunch is that fast.

When you think of kyuushoku, do not think of anything resembling an American school lunch. There is almost always rice, or bread. Then, there is a "salad" (either actual salad, or tuna with salad, or cabbage/spinach, etc.), and some sort of soup (tofu, stew, something in a bowl). There is also a meat that is usually fish. I usually eat everything at kyuushoku, even if I don't really like it (I really hate the cabbage spinach salad thing, it's chewy and nasty, but I eat it), but there are two things so far that I just can't. I can't eat it, I've tried, and I just...gah.

One, is a specialty to Shizuoka. It is a raw fish called shirasu, or baby sardines. As you can see, they have eyes. They don't appear in a blob like that in kyuushoku thank goodness, but they're in some salads and just...blah. It's not the eyes per se, it's the texture. The texture is so off, I really do not enjoy. But I can if I have to, and I actually don't mind them when they're cooked (they taste a lot better).

The one I absolutely despise, hate, and/or can't tolerate at all is this fried little pregnant fish called shishamo that seriously looks like it's screaming. You eat all of it, eyes and skin and all. I tried, I really did, but I can't. And my JTE laughs at me for it, and it's sort of become a running joke. Here is a decent picture of a kyuushoku, just to give you an idea. The milk is decidedly thick, but I've gotten used to it.

Oh yeah, also things I can't eat: this. It's these little crunchy fish (                                 ) about that big that come in a bag with almonds. I can't eat them; they're crunchy and taste like nothing but skin and eyes. But they come in a little bag so they are easy enough to avoid.

So after kyuushoku is a lunch break, a recess where students just hang out if you will. There's no going outside to run around (there is a grounds for baseball and gym and events, but there is almost never grass. Just a big pile of dirt). I usually spend my lunch break at my desk, recovering from lunch and my sudden fullness with food. This is also the point where teachers (and most of the students I'm told) brush their teeth. Like, don't even go water the toothbrush down, just put toothpaste on it, sit at their desk, and brush their teeth. It took me a while, but I have finally started to do this as well. I don't sit at my desk, I go to the bathroom to brush my teeth, but it's good for you so hey, why not!

On Monday and Friday, there is only 5th period after lunch; on Tues-Thrs, there is 5th and 6th periods. After these classes, there's cleaning time! Because it is everyone's job to clean the school! It's about 15 minutes, nothing special, but we clean! I help sweep the entranceway.

Then after that, there is another short homeroom. After that, students have school clubs! Every student is in a club. You are only allowed to be in one club. The sannensei are no longer in clubs, and they go home so they have more time to study (the entrance exams into high school are super hard, and super important. Students to go a cram school after school for more studying). At this time, I either study or (if it's Friday because that is the longest amount of time), I go watch the clubs. If I were to go watch any other day but Friday, all I would see is stretching. But they are always happy to see me, so I go watch. It makes me want to play, though :( But lord knows what would happen there.

Then, I catch the bus home and return around 5:30. As is my day: a brief glimpse into Japan!


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Why Does All the Weird Stuff Happen at Ito: Adventures

((written on September 3, 2013))

So I’m bored. Part of me reckons I should tell you about school, but considering I’ve only had one half day and one full day there, I figured I will wait to write that one until I’ve, you know, actually taught something.

So instead, I thought of this little gem on the way home from the store a couple days ago. If you watch my Facebook, you’d notice that I’ve mentioned a lovely little store called Ito Yokado in a few of my more…entertaining adventures (except yesterday when the bread fell out in the street—different store)). These adventures have a bit of difficulty to them, making them all the more entertaining to talk about once the story is over, and super frustrating while it is still unfolding.

So I’m going to expound upon 3 ridiculous adventures at this store that I’ve mentioned briefly on Facebook because it is 9 o clock, I’ve read my eyes out, I don’t want to open the puzzle, and I have nothing to watch while I crochet.

So Adventure #1: The Bicycle and the Pooh Fan

So Ito Yokado is the closest store to me that has homely things: applicances, houseware, kitchen goods, things I can’t get at the mall or dollar store essentially. The very first adventure there was the first day I got here; my supervisor took us to the store to make sure we had essentials-type thing (but that is connected to the second story, which comes later). So a friend recommended that this was a good store to get a sturdy bike from, and I had seen them there when we went, so hell why not. I used my handy GoogleMap to walk myself over there, figuring once I bike back it’ll be easier to remember how to get there.

I find the bikes easy enough, and I stare at them for a while. They’re a little more expensive than I hoped, but not significantly so. Actually the cheaper ones were part electric, so I almost accidentally bought a bike that has like…pedaling aid. Woops. But I didn’t, and I managed to understand the dude as he told me to wait a half hour while they do some bike processing…registering…business. So I do, gleefully troll around the store (there’s also a dollar store in there) and I proudly buy the millions of puzzles and walk out with an awesome bike.

I get my accomplished self all the way home, plop down on the floor, and realize my treasured Pooh fan is missing (mind you, it’s like a thousand degrees and a fan is necessary at work. I had other fans, but the Pooh Fan). I didn’t bring the bag I usually kept it in, and I last remembered sticking it my pocket. So I hop back on the bike and head back to Ito, searching the roads. I get to the store, no fan. Mind you, this is the store where I bought the fan from (and it cost me about a dollar) but dammit I wanted that one. So I asked the lady if anyone found it, she said no but I filled out a little form for them to call me if anyone found it. I told myself I’d stick it out a day with another fan and if they didn’t call then I’d go get another.

Well, they didn’t call saying they’d found it, so I went back and got another. A few days later, I get a phone call (getting phone calls is horrifying FYI: Japanese on the phone is like a million times worse), and the voice is like 10 steps higher than a level able to be understood by humans. I had no idea who it was. Luckily, a friend at work was able to talk to them for me, and it was Ito calling to tell me that they hadn’t found it yet but were still looking. Happily I have received no further reports about the fan.


Adventure #2! That Stupid Okayu Maker

So I mentioned the first time we went to Ito I was going to get essentials my apartment didn’t have—which at the time was a rice cooker. Me and like, 2 other people helped me pick out this nifty teeny little rice cooker at the time (I wanted a small one because hey, small apartment). And we all had a bit of a fail.

1 week and 6 days later, I use it for the first time. I scrupulously translate bits of the manual to know what I’m doing, and hit buttons and cook a pot of rice. What comes out is….mush. Complete mush. So, assuming I did it wrong, I hit a different button and make….even more mush. Looking closely, the box says ‘Okayu Maker’ (Porridge maker).

….Ain’t no rice coming out of this thing. >.< So returning things in Japan is iffy at best, and 2 weeks is the marker. So I needed to get this crap repackaged and attempt to get it out of my house. I called that day to ask if I could return it, and the response was definitely longer than ‘yes’ (still no idea what that response was, but hey). So I dragged it to the store, repeating on loop in my head the phrase “I bought this okayu maker 2 weeks ago, but I wanted a rice cooker. Can I exchange or return it?” I went up to the checkout of nice older ladies, and one of them walked with me to the service counter and I got rid of the thing. Then, after another lady helped me get an actual rice cooker, I checked out at the same counter, and the ladies were joking around and assuring me that it was an actual rice cooker.

Happy endings of lost in translation stress. Woot!

The Current Adventure: An Unhealthy Addiction to Puzzles

So all of my puzzles are going up on the huge expanse that is my blank white wall. I recently finished the 1000 piece Disney puzzle, but it is stained glass-partly see through with interlocking pieces, so it’s not really right to glue together. But it’s also not right to just hang outright, especially with the humidity routinely knocking the puzzles off the wall. So it’s currently operating as a rug until I go buy a frame for the huge thing. This weekend, I walked to Ito because I knew I wouldn’t be able to carry the puzzle frame on my bicycle—a little too big for that. I get there and check out their expanse of puzzle frames (moment of panic when I noticed the lady was packing them up-I still haven’t been back to see if they were moved or are just gone), but each puzzle frame was off by like .2~.5 cm. And they are quite expensive. The lady working with the puzzles sees the huge question mark over my head, and she comes over with a book of all the puzzles; I show her the picture of the one I did, and we find the ~special~ frame that you need to use with it, which they don’t have. Soooo, I ended up having to order it. And walk home for no reason. Gr.

Sidebar, this trip had a side mission of buying the same puzzle for Julie, who wants one as well. They didn’t have a copy (the lady helped me look too), so I ended up having to order one of those too. That’s right you love me, older sister.

The lady said they would take about a week to come in, but yesterday I had a missed call. So damn, Japanese phone call time, I call it back and it’s the same high voice from before so I know immediately that it’s Ito. From what I understood, they called to tell me that it would be a week…? Even though I already knew this. Idk, maybe they had just ordered it. Still unnecessary stress.

So that’ll be a fun phone call.

So yeah, some silly adventures.

((EDIT: So that phone call? They were trying to tell me that it was in. They called again, and I managed to guess that was the purpose, and when I went to get it I brokenly managed to speak why I was there [luckily I remembered the little receipt which is the real reason they probably knew what I was talking about] and I got it! And after it hung with Command Strips for a few weeks, it fell, and now it is hanging with S Hooks. Strong stuff.))


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

It Needs No Witty Introduction: Climbing Mt. Fuji

((written on August 26, 2013))

I figured I would write this before I forgot anything.

Haha, like I would be able to forget any part of that…adventure. If you could call it that. Good God, I now understand why all of my friends’ would say “it was a great experience, but I would never do it again” when I asked them about their Fuji experience. Damn.

Let’s start at the very beginning.  [A very good place to start]

So the original plan: So as to not accidentally go the wrong way, my friend Carter and I would take the train to Mishima to meet with the person in charge of the hike, Anthony. We would go with that group of people on the bus to Mt. Fuji’s 5th station, where most (sane/out of shape) people start the climb from. (If you were to start from the bottom of the mountain, which people do, it would be over a 22 hour climb.) We would start around 7, hike all of Saturday night, and arrive at the top of the mountain to see the beautiful sunrise. Then, after exploring and taking a zillion pictures of the stuff on top, we would climb back down the mountain (which of course) will be easier, buy some souvenirs, and get on the bus home by 9. Sounds nifty right?


So, in order to meet Carter on the train (we could look at the train times and actually meet ON the train, super cool), I needed to leave my house at 2 to walk to the JR station. (You don’t know this yet becaue no internet, but there is a train station literally at the base of my apartment complex. However, it is a local train station, so if I ever want to leave the Shizuoka area, I need to walk about 15-20 minutes or bike 5 minutes over to Higashi Shizuoka, my JR station.) The night before, it was brought to our attention that there was a chance of rain for our climb tomorrow. Happily, someone on facebook wrote that the conbini (convenience store) sells plastic pants you can put over your own to stay dry. So I figured in the morning I would just stop over at my local conbini and pick some up and relax a bit before I walked to the station.

Welllll my local conbini didn’t have any. No big deal, that just meant I needed to get some track pants, also waterproof. And my friends and I happened to see some at a store downtown. Although downtown was farther away than the sports store in the mall by my house, I didn’t want to waste time going there when I was certain that the downtown store had them. So I go downtown. They only have shorts. Hell. So I stop at a mall downtown, where there is a sports store, thinking I can get some there anyway. They don’t have any either. So by now I’ve wasted an hour, and I really haven’t eaten breakfast yet, so I have to hurry up and get myself together so I can leave on time. I hurry up and get home and bike over to the mall by my house, where of course they had track pants the whole time. Sigh. I knew it would be wise to look in the Men’s section for a good, comfy fitting pair of track pants, but in my stress I just ran over to the ladies section and looked there (it’s a big store). I wanted a bigger size so if it rained, I could put these on over my jeans and still be able to move. So I grabbed a LL to be safe (because seriously, fitting women’s pants here is impossible, but these looked plenty big) and it was a very good thing I did. They barely fit. Ridiculously snug around the hips and thighs, so if I would end up needing to put on my jeans it would have to be over top of them. But no matter, they were good enough. So we were waterproof, yay! With about a half hour until I had to leave, I ate breakfast, finished packing, and got dressed. (Mind you, before I even left the house I was wearing HeatTeach [Japanese underarmour] leggings and long sleeve shirt, yoga pants, the track pants, a T shirt, hiking socks, and sturdy boots. I had packed jeans, extra socks, hat, ear muffthings, a zippie, my waterproof jacket, and more jeans. I was ready. I also had my predecessor’s Fuji stick that she left me, and a friends that I was bringing for Carter. You can get a special stick when you go to Mt. Fuji to help you climb. When you reach a station, you can pay for them to burn a special stamp into the stick, saying you made it to that station. (Said stamps get more expensive as you go up of course). I thought it was cool to have a generational Fuji stick, and of course it already had some stamps too, so win. So I am walking to the station (in the heat) in this gear, with my backpack full of food and clothes, with two Fuji sticks. The sticks also jingle, because they have bells to ward off bears (the terrain on our trail up Fuji definitely did not support bears btw). So I looked quite a sight. But hey, I’ve done worse in public and I get stared at when I’m doing nothing, so hell with it. We get on the train, we get to Mishima, we buy bus tickets, we get on the bus that will take us up to Fuji 5th station, yay! At this point, Anthony warns us that the return bus ticket we got only works for the 9 o clock bus, so we have to be careful to make it down the mountain in time. I thought this was weird because the ticket didn’t have a time printed on it or anything, but I thought then it must be a weird Fuji thing or something, so I didn’t question it.

We get up to Fuji 5th and meet the rest of the foreigners who took different buses to the 5th. People buy their own Fuji sticks and eat something light for dinner (Sandwich!) and get ready to go. There was also oxygen to buy to fend off altitude sickness, and I had no idea how my body was going to react to the climb, so I bought some just in case. I had gotten a headache on the bus ride up and taken some Aleve, and it went away, but you never know. We wait a while at the 5th station to acclimate to the altitude, while the superfast group (led by Anthony) take off early to make it up the mountain with time to spare to see the sunrise (obviously, there was no way in hell I was going in that group lol). We had plenty of time to make it up the mountain before sunrise, around 5 o clock. We were aiming to make it to the summit around 4, because any time after that it can be so crowded you are basically climbing in a queue line to get to the top. No one wants that.

The following occurs on our journey up, from 7:30pm-4:30am Sunday morning:

We knew we were going to be the slow people of the group, but we were the absolute last people to start. Our friend in the group of people from Shizuoka area, Oziel, didn’t realize his headlamp (a super important piece of gear, as it was already dark) didn’t have any batteries. So as we waited for him to buy some, the main group set off. We left soon after, no big deal, but we weren’t quite sure where the up path was. So we walked in a circle, but then we soon found it and started up.

Mind you, it’s pitch black, and pretty cold. I already had put my zippie on. We climb up some steps, and see the bathroom, which has doors leading from both sides. So we assume the path goes through it, because that happens, why wouldn’t it? Well it didn’t. We were supposed to turn the other way, so when we walked out the bathroom on the other side, we had zero idea where to go. So we start going up this super steep, super ashy part and we’re thinking holy shit, this climb cannot be this steep! The path we were taking, the Fujinomiya trail, is the shortest path to take up Fuji, but it’s the steepest.

And this was steep. So we make it up to the top of it, and lo and behold, there are the ropes that delineate the actual, less steep path! Yay! Gold star for us.  So within ten minutes, we make it to the 6th station and catch up to the main foreigner group. My stick already has the 6th station stamp, so I didn’t bother. We stopped and snacked while acclimating at this new altitude. I also took off my zippie, because with it while we were walking I was waaay too hot. I’d put it on again later. I knew that here is where it was going to get difficult. The hike between the 6th and 7th stations was long. So long, in fact, that they built another 7th station, New 7th station, in between the two of them so you could rest on the way.


So we start out in one big group and spread out only a little bit. Carter, Oziel, and a few other of our in-shape friends take the lead, staying in the lead but still relatively together. We stop for breaks when we feel like we’re about to fall over, and it’s pretty fun so far. It was cloudy, but not much, so we could see the pretty city lights beneath us.


We hear, and everyone immediately is like ohhh no, here comes the rain. But we had asked about it at the 6th, and apparently there is a military base in Gotemba nearby that does maneuvers at this time. So nothing to worry about, just artillery. Not thunder. Good.

We make it to New 7th as a group. We stop to acclimate, eat something (I had a rice ball, yum!) It was also at this point I promise myself I can have a Snickers bar at the 8th station. However, we didn’t want to rest too long, because if we rested too long it got very cold very quickly. It was at this point and put my jacket back on; it was only getting colder. While the main group rested, the Shizuoka City group of us and a couple more people decided that we wanted to get a move on. So we started out ahead of the group, and we quickly separated amongst our little group as well. Carter, Oziel, and a few others were faster (in shape) people, so they took off ahead of me, Ronnie, and Vesper, who took our sweet time getting to old 7th station. We would walk in spurts, stopping every 5-7 minutes (we got better towards the end and made it 10 and even 20) to sit for a moment. We even labelled our stops, 7.a, 7.b, just to you know, be entertained. At this point the weather was clear and beautiful; we could see where the side of the mountain gave way to the clouds and the city. Thankfully, I took some pictures of the moon and sky. I was doing good, except my right leg (hip socket area) was starting to complain, but not that badly. That Fuji stick was a freaking godsend. Almost the entire time I held onto it with two hands, using like a rowboat oar to find safe places for my feet, and to propel myself up the damn mountain. So very slowly and surely, we make it up to Old 7th, where we find our Mirkwood Friends (as I had lovingly nicknamed the inshape people: in LOTR Legolas is like, skipping above the snow with ease while everyone else is drowning in it because he is an elf and awesome; therefore, I likened them akin to elves with their awesomeness). They had been there for about 10 minutes or so before us. Now it was pretty late, and there were people sleeping inside the station, so we had to be very quiet. There was no stamps or bathroom, so it was a pretty shitty station. (I am fairly certain there is a new and old 7th stamp, but it was late and the dude was mean, so I didn’t care to push it). The more we climbed, the later it got, so I really didn’t give a damn about the stamps because it was late and the stamp places were closed. On the way down, I really didn’t give a damn about the stamps and didn’t even bother to stop to check to get them.


So our Mirkwood Friends leave first, and we stop for a few minutes to just sit, acclimate, and get ready to go to 8th, which will hopefully be a happier place than old 7th. (I know it will be for me, I get to eat Snickers xD). We don’t acclimate long, because like I said, old 7th sucked, so we start going toward 8.

::Insert slow moving, break taking, and climbing here::

Now, the whole time we have been climbing it has obviously been steep. You had to watch for rocks and be careful. But just before we made it to 8th it started getting hilariously steep, like what-the-hell-is-this-shit steep. Mercifully, we make it to 8th. Surprisingly, we find our Mirkwood Friends huddled there, resting. They’d already been there over a half hour. So we sit next to them and I eat my Snickers (wo0t!) and my friends use the restroom, take oxygen, and we generally get situated. At this point, we also see some other foreigners from our group that I didn’t even know had taken off ahead. He and his friend had been there a while, because one of them had altitude sickness. I let him use my oxygen to hopefully help. (I thankfully did not get altitude sickness at all).  As our Mirkwood Friends are getting ready to leave, the door we were sitting in front of opens and climbers want to come out, so we all have to move. Ronnie, Vesper, and I move over to the side of the station to huddle there for a few more minutes. We didn’t stay there very long because without the station to block the wind, it was ridiculously windy and cold.

So we get up and start climbing the now ridiculously steep path up to 9. We definitely ran into our Mirkwood Friends there, because 9 had a restaurant in it! A warm restaurant, with food and places to sit! Yay! So we wrestle to find seats and I get the most expensive cup noodle ever. (600 yen for what at home would be less than 100). Who cares, warm food. I wasn’t particularly hungry for it, but I figured I should eat it anyway. And you needed to buy something to sit inside. Warm food it is. Weirdly, there were people sleeping on the side of the tables, in the light, with all the people talking. Amazing.

So our friends leave for station 9.5 and the summit at 10, while we wait, eat, and warm up. But then we got a move on, sloooowly making our way to station 9.5. We run into a little mountain queue-ing, but it wasn’t bad. When we make it there it’s crowded and just not a happy place to be, so we don’t bother to stop and we decide to get a little past 9.5 before taking our rest. The nice dude who runs station 9.5 told us to be careful, that it was dangerous. (It was kinda fun on the way up we would tell random people good luck and things, and they would do the same). But we had done good so far, we got this.

So we find a rock to stop on that isn’t as steep as the others, (still steep) and run into Bryan, who we had met at station 8; his friend had altitude sickness and had went back down, so he was continuing alone. We welcomed him to join us, but he was waaay to fast for us and eventually he disappeared. No big deal, we’re almost there! We get up to make the final journey to 10, the summit, the top, let’sdothis~

This is a point where we literally turn a damn corner, and all the shit hits the fan.

As we got higher, it was getting foggier and foggier, and around station 9 the fog started to look like it was condensed and thinking about raining, because now that I think about it, we were probably literally in a cloud. So we turn this corner and fog/cloud decides that yes, it does want to rain, and it wants to now.

So the fog mist turns into a ridiculously windy, hellishly cold rainstorm. We immediately stop and start digging for the remainder of our waterproof gear. I whip my jacket out and open it up, and it is so windy that I can’t see it properly to find where the arms went. It was in the air like a kite as I battled to put the damn thing on. If I were to have lost my grip on it and let go, I would have never seen it again. So with an almighty spin of the thing I manage to get it on and zip it up. We can no longer see more than 3 feet in front of us. It’s freezing, windy, and rainy. My gloves have soaked and have become a part of my skin, slowly numbing my fingers.

We reach the 200 meter mark for the summit, thank God. We are almost there. When we saw the other 200m marks we saw we soon reached that station. But this one wouldn’t come; we kept walking and walking without being able to see, and there was no damn summit. And then finally, finally, I saw a torii gate. There it was, a puddle of summit. The clouds were slowly lightening! We made it, just in time for sunrise.

Just in time to see absolutely nothing. We could see rain. We could see clouds. And puddles. So as the sun rose, we literally huddled in a circle and played 20 questions in front of the not-yet-open station building, trying to take our mind off our numb hands. When the building finally opened we dove in, and got stupidly small 500yen gross things of coffee to warm our hands with. I drank it; I didn’t care at this point.

Now there are many fun things to do on the Fuji summit. You can get the Fuji stick stamp for the summit, there’s a shrine, you can get a keychain with the date engraved, you can even send a postcard from the Fuji summit post office.

But there was construction. And rain. And cold. But after warming up and finishing the gross coffee, I put on a double layer of dry gloves and went out with a friend to the shrine to get that summit stamp. I was getting this one. And when I say ‘went out,’ I mean ‘fought our way out of the station that was literally filled to the brim with people.’

We get over to the shrine and get the stamp. Hell yes. Now next to the stamp is the goshuuin station. Do you remember my nifty stamp book that I took with me to every shrine and temple to get awesome stamps from each one? They had one here. I did not know this, and was super pissed I didn’t have my book. I told the man exactly that, ‘I forgot my stamp book.’ Luckily they just had some on spare pieces of paper, so I could buy one and stick it in my book. Hoo.

At this point, I had no idea about the keychain engraving thing, and even if I did I had no idea where it would be. I still have no idea where it would be, there was like nothing up there. We had trouble finding the post office as it was. After asking two people, we determined it was over another hill and down a ways. At this point, it was after 6, and we needed to get a move on down the mountain to make that 9 bus. I really didn’t want to climb another hill, and if I did there was no way I’d have made it down by 9. My friend who wanted to go was from the superfast group, and would have no trouble catching up/ passing by. So I’m sorry friends, I could not send you a post card from the top of Mt. Fuji. I didn’t have the strength or the time to get over there, determined as I was to make it down by 9.

The following occurs from 6:30 to 3pm Sunday:

I really, really wanted to make it down by 9. I really did, for that stupid bus. But I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. I started out okay, but after we got to station 9 I started slowing down. It was still raining. (It rained all the way down the mountain, btw.) My backpack that was supposed to be lighter was almost doubled in weight, it was so weighed down from the rain. My new gloves were now soaked. I was soaked through, in all layers. Even my hiking boots, which had been doing so well, at this point were soaked through. I couldn’t make it down by 9.

The icing on the cake? Around this time, stumbling down the super steepness that occurs from 8 upward, I was battling. I kept using my soaked gloves (that I would routinely have to drain by making a fist) to keep my glasses semi-able to be seen through. I would wipe both the outside and the inside, and it worked pretty fine, until I took a step and oh hey, there was my glasses lens on the ground. I hurriedly picked it up, but there was nothing I could do about it. All the rubbing had loosened the screw of my right eye lens that periodically gets loose on its own, and it had fallen out. So I put it away, hoping it would stay in one piece as I continued down the mountain.

So for the rest of this story, the following occurs with one lens in my glasses:

I manage to make it down the steep and treacherous rocky area from where we were to just after the 8th station by routinely closing one eye. At this point, I was still trying to be speedy, and slowly me and Katie (who climbed up with the Mirkwood people) pulled away from everyone else, making it down the mountain. Together, we made it past New 7th. It was past 9 at this point, and I didn’t care. I just wanted off this GD mountain. I was half-blind. My neck felt stiff as a block of wood from constantly looking down. I was soaked. My knees were screaming. And I’m pretty sure I was dehydrated based on the fact that I couldn’t spit, it hurt to swallow, and I didn’t use the restroom the entire time we were on the mountain. The path from New 7th to 6 never ended; this was the final hard part before we got to 6, because 6 and 5 were close to each other. Katie needed the facilities of 6, so she sped ahead and I planned to meet her there. I was getting a bit delirious, stumbling down the rocks; I lost count of how many times I tripped/fell down. I do remember one spectacular fall though, because I tried to get back up and ended up spinning and simply landing hard on the ground again.

Landing hard on my left knee, in the exact spot of the scar from when I fell the last time I was in Japan. Irony abounds. There’s nothing but a teeny scab there, but it ripped a hole in my gym shorts and even my leggings (which pisses me off cuz I want to wear those to school, grr). So yeah. Not fun times going down the mountain. Definitely not easier going down the mountain.

But mercifully I make it to 6th, and Katie and I take the correct path down to 5. Hallelujah. We stumble down the stairs (stairs! Real stairs!) to the bus ticket place. At this point, I am pretty sure that I can use that bus ticket on any bus I freaking want, and even if it was only for the 9 o clock bus, I can talk to the ticket person and figure it out, because I look so water-weary and hellishly beat up that I am getting on a bus. It is 10:15. Katie’s ticket was in her pocket, and is basically tissue. It is thankfully legible tissue, and we show it to the man asking when we can use this. He points to a bus, and says that it leaves at 10:30. I show him my ticket, and he says it is also fine. Hallelujah again. But I want a souvenir dammit (besides the rocks Katie and I picked up lol), so I painfully make my way up the stairs to the souvenir shop and get a keychain and a little Fuji that you can change the numbers to tell the date, and painfully make my way down the stairs back to the bus.

::Insert long bus ride down the mountain::

Before the bus left, my friend Daltonise (who was with the Mirkwood people) also made it on the bus. Together, her and I got off at Shin-Fuji station (I was hoping to get off at Fuji station, but unfortunately the bus didn’t go there). Then, we had to walk 20 minutes over to Fuji station. Kill me now.

Then, once we got to Fuji station, there were stairs. It also about killed me.

Now, we are in normal residential areas, and I look a fright. I did not remove my hood or jacket, because my hair and zippie looked even more horrible. So I looked like I was climbing a mountain until I made it home.

While waiting for the train, the very nice old couple next to use asked us if we just climbed Fuji. Case in point. (They also got on the train with us, and the gentleman showed us awesome pictures of Fuji he took when he climbed it. Probably climbed it faster than us lol)

Also with us on the train was another foreigner from the UK; I don’t even know his name. We talked with him for the duration; he was getting off at my station to meet up with a friend to start his vacation from his job in Tokyo. So it was nice to talk to people on the way home and pass the time.

Then, I had to walk again the 20 minute walk home from the JR station. Dragging my Fuji stick along. Just in case anyone couldn’t figure out why I was bedecked in soaking raingear.

I walked in my door around 3, threw all the wet stuff outside, and passed out from exhaustion until 8.

So there you have it, my one of a kind journey on the mountain. I celebrate by taking a day off today, Monday. Maybe I can even walk tomorrow, who knows?


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What a Week: Orientation, Festivals, and One Piece

((Written on August 18, 2013))

So I don’t have any Internet, and as appealing as it is to try to update my blog on my smartphone, I think I’ll pass. I could also hike it over to Starbucks to use their wifi (which if this Internet doesn’t appear in the next week or so I’ll have to for getting pictures) but at the moment I just feel like sitting.

So there has been many an adventure this week. The apartment is slowly turning into my own: I bought a million puzzles to complete (Disney, Kirby, One Piece, you know) and hang up on the wall. My plain walls are mocking me right now, and this needs to be remedied. I got a lovely kotatsu from a friend who is leaving (we carried it together across town; just as hilarious as dragging my kitchen counter on my bike I assure you). So I am slowly going on little shopping trips to get everything I need to actually be finished “setting up” my apartment. It’s taking a while.

Oh yes. What’s a kotatsu you ask? A table. But it is an awesome table that during the winter you can take the top off and affix a blanket to it, so when it’s freezing and your apartment has no insulation, you turn the heater on that’s on the bottom of the table and you are no longer freezing. ^.^

Because the students are on summer holiday (August and part of July), us ALTs go to the Board of Education and do…random things. This past week was orientation, so there was lots to plan and practice and learn and information. Lots of information. From Tokyo and from here. The next important thing is planning my self-introduction lesson for when I go to school in the beginning of September. Hence the need to arrange my pictures, for which I need Internet.

Speaking of Internet. Why do I not have it immediately? They have to come set it up, and so we must arrange a time for them to come set it up. However, apparently (I think it’s because I’m on the 6th floor) they need permission to come set mine up from my maintenance people at my building before we can even do that. And then they have to come see if they can even set it up at all, because 6th floor. If not, then I have to sign up for a different kind of Internet, and the whole damn process starts over again.

Sidebar about the Internet (and cell phone, and everything pretty much along those lines). It’s very different here in that when I signed up for my phone, the only thing I paid for was my screen protector. The cost of the phone goes in with my monthly payments. Same thing with Internet, no upfront costs. They also come with this pile of extra crap to pay for that you really don’t need (services on the phone and Internet) that are free for so long and they bank on you not cancelling them. So I have this list in my notebook of what to cancel when and where. It’s very frustrating.

So no Internet means I’ve been doing fun stuff right? Right! Yay! In summer, there are many festivals. Last week happened to be the Obon festival (which meant more delays for Internet as well). So I went to many a place to celebrate summer festivals! On Wednesday, some friends and I went to Yaizu for their fireworks show, which was an hour straight of some pretty awesome fireworks. I managed to get a couple awesome pictures. It was super crowded, and we almost didn’t find a seat, but we managed it. Got a little lost walking back to the station, but that just meant it was easier for us to get on a train to go home.

Next my friend Sam and I went on Thursday to the Obon festivities at a shrine by my house. Obon is typically a Buddhist celebration, so Shinto shrines do not usually celebrate, but Yunoki Shrine is a shrine to protect the people of Shizuoka (it’s a memorial for those that died protecting Shizuoka during WWII) so they celebrate. This is the day that I took an hour or so figuring out how to wear the yukata that I got on discount the weekend before. Tying the belt is very difficult, but I think I did a decent job. One typically wears yukata (like a cotton kimono) to summer festivals=perfect occasion. Obon is a dancing festival, so there was much dancing and performances and of course, food. There were also hundreds of beautiful lanterns lit up on the shrine grounds. Many pictures. There was also a dance at this festival where people were encouraged to join in as they danced in a circle around the people sitting in front of the stage. We were invited twice before we finished what we were drinking and joined in the next time they invited us. These super nice older women were very helpful in teaching us the dances. I probably looked pretty hilarious trying not to accidentally launch my purse off my shoulder while dancing, but it was really fun! And we got free juice after. And even though I think I tied my obi (belt) too tightly, the yukata was very comfy.

Next on Friday there was a street festival in downtown Shizuoka that my friends and I wanted to check out. This was the day that my friend and I hauled the kotatsu down through the city to my apartment, so we got to the street fair quite late, but it was open late as well (which is like 9, but still). There was almost too much stuff to look at though, so we just headed for festival food. Mmm. Then we got good and lost exploring downtown (gotta learn where everything is somehow). Remember, “lost” in the sense that we knew we were still in the city, just getting the sense of where we were vs. where we wanted to be and the best way to get there.

And yesterday was the One Piece. I posted that poster on Facebook that I couldn’t read about the One Piece Grand Arena Tour. I knew that it was until today, but not where or what it was. Luckily, I recently made a friend who also likes One Piece, and together we ventured to the awesomeness. It was a walkthrough not unlike the one I went to in Hirakata Park, except this one was updated and…awesome. It was a walkthrough of the story up to the current story in the anime, which is further than the other went. Many things to take pictures with and have a good time. At the end there was a place you could get your picture imposed into a picture of the crew or the Wanted poster (my friend and I opted for the crew). It was a long wait, but absolutely worth it. The shop was a bit odd in the fact that you waited in line and told the cashier what you wanted from the poster and she brought it up for you. I spent less money than I thought I would ;D I am excited to show all of my pictures!

Also yesterday I got lost after picking up my bank stuff from the Post Office, but it’s really impossible to be totally lost with a smart phone. Because then I found the store I wanted (Loft) and fought through the street fair people to get in the store with little trouble. Thanks phone. I did however, accidentally try to buy the sample planner instead of one for sale. Gold star for me. I also bought a bento (lunch box), so hopefully I’ll get my cooking act together and stop having to go buy lunch every day at work! Yay! Then, that night, my friend Emiko and I went to see the new Ghibli movie in theaters. Which was all Japanese, but I got the important gist of it. It was very good, and I am very excited to see it with subtitles in which I could understand all of it.

So it’s been quite busy! And because we worked on Obon, I get 3 extra days off I have to use before August ends. Yay! However, I am going to visit my school for a few hours (starting this Friday) random days before school starts to help a student with the Speech Contest, a big deal in Junior High here. Which I am very excited for, but it makes taking time off creative. So I am taking Tues and Wed off this week (Monday is a half day, so why bother lol) And then next Monday. It’s also a half day, but I know I’m not going to want to move that Monday. Why you ask? This weekend my friend and I are going with a big group of JETs to climb Mt. Fuji. So no moving on Monday.

Here we go!


P.S. Cookies and Cream Kit Kats. Mmmmmmmmmm

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Return of the Gaijin: Follow the Green Dots

Alright I've been awake for over 24 hours (sans ~45 minutes) but I want to see if I can throw up an 'I'm back!' post about the return to glorious Japan.

First, my friend David and I have to be at Dulles by 850; in order to secure this with DC traffic we get a shuttle for 6. We arrive at Dulles at 645, and hang out for about an hour and a half until the travel people arrive to ensure our departure and how many checked bags we have. Next, we split up because David and I are on different flights; breeze through security, re-belt my shorts and head to the gate...over 2 hours early. Super thorough travel agency. So we hang out, eat, (unfortunately Starbucks was closest) and wait. There's quite a few of us though, so it was not boring by any means. It was also awesome when my cousin Pat came to see me off! And take pictures for mother of course.

So we come to the blessed occasion: 13 hour journey to the other end of the world. My track record with sleep on a plane isn't stellar, so I took a Benadryl to hopfully spur things along as well as brought a neck pillow to possibly be more comfortable. It sort of worked? Neck pillow did nothing but push my neck forward which was not helpful, but I crossed my arms under it and tucked my chin on top of it and fell into a sort of sleep for about 45 minutes? It was all good; I had my usual movie-thon (Lincoln, a censored Iron Man 3 [I could see why they cut the scene about falling out of a plane, but it was doctored like it was on TBS or something], How to Train Your Dragon, The Hobbit (!!), and Rise of the Guardians). The food was...effective, but even just picking at it had me and a few other people's stomahs turning about for a few hours after the flight. We had to come around again to land because a plane was still on the tarmac (which I hypothesize was the other plane with JETs beating us there because we were to arrive within 10 minutes of each other) and theen the whole waiting-in-no-AC-for-immigration-yay part.Then, there were a billion people in super helpful green shirts, scattered along our path like bread crumbs to guide us where we needed to be. Super helpful; very effective.

[Getting more tired now] Drive 90 mins to hotel; check in to very nice room, go out to eat at Saizeriya (which is ironically the first place I ate out at last time), come home, get ready for the early day tomorrow!