Monday, January 10, 2011

Jamila's Journal of Jappn'

Prepare for typos aplenty! This is me ranting for pages an pages and pages. Maximiliaan would weep at the lack of structure. If he was human, that is. 

Cast of characters:

Me- Jamila
Brother in Canada who accompanies me- Cameron
Brother teaching in Japan who speaks Japanese- Kendall
Yuki- Kendall's Neighbour
Kimura- Kendall's co-worker

Not sure how often the last two come up, but we'll see.


December 29th

Vacation time! I'm writing this part post-vacationend, so it's sort of weird. Sorry I shant capture that wonder of not having been in Japan yet. You'll deal with it.

We got to the airport at 8-something, I think. I had not had breakfast. We cleared customs pretty fast, got patted down. How sad.

I got Tim Horton's when we were inside. Tea and a breakfast sandwich, how can you go wrong? I would later miss Tim Horton's very very much. Just having Orange Pekoe was a luxury I had to live without. I got something close at the grocery, but all I know is that it was black tea. No idea of the specific variety.

We got on the plane. It was a short ride. I was amazed at how fast it was. It was a delayed flight, though, which made it very hard once we landed at Pearson.

Pearson consisted of a lot of running. We were almost late for the flight and by the time we got to our gate they were already boarding. Cameron insisted that he needed booze, so he ran back to the store to buy some. They had called final boarding call and I was very worried he wouldn't be back in time before I saw him running up. We got on the plane and I insisted that running at the last minute to catch a plane is for Hugh Grant and romantic comedies.

The plane ride was fun. Long, but fun. It wasn't as insanity-causing as I had thought. It was just like a car ride that went on for a long time. I slept, watched The Prince of Egypt and The Matrix (both great, by the way), some episodes of Modern Family that they had in there, too, played on my gameboy, and generally waited. I only slept half an hour on the plane, which left me exhausted. I hadn't planned on the “stay awake forever” strategy, but it sort of worked out that way.

The meals were mostly great. There was chicken in a mushroom sauce with corn-salad (+ edamames) and a brownie for dinner. The snack was a Cup Noodle, also delicious. The Cup Noodle came with a mini-sandwich, too! It was amazing. Both were well-timed hunger-wise. The only problem was breakfast. It was served too soon and their omelette tasted weird. I wasn't hungry, much less for a soggy cheese-thing.

Anyway, some time during this flight it passed midnight and became...

December 30th

Landed in Japan, in Narita airport. We were very tired and Cameron was mildly tipsy. It was hard going through the airport speaking barely any Japanese. By barely any, I mean “Inu? Neko? Boku wa JAMIRA-desu???” and that's no help. We thought that in Tokyo-area they'd speak a little English in the airport, but what English they spoke was hard to understand. Almost to the point where they could have been speaking a different form of Japanese.

Anyway, with very strict sign-following we eventually made it to Japanese customs. The guards were much less intimidating than in Canada. Maybe because I could barely understand them. They asked where we were going and we said “Haboro”. They just said “HA-BO-RO?” back at us and we smiled and nodded.

Customs was generally easier. We didn't get patted down like in Canada, they just scanned our stuff and let us go. It was pretty great. Cameron cared a lot more about the invasion of privacy that patting down involves, but I don't really care either way. Maybe it's because I always get patted down. My Dad said “It's the colour”, so I guess I'm stuck getting patted down for life.

Post-customs Cameron and I made it to our gate. That part was slightly harder. We had to find our baggage and put it on the plane to Tokyo. It was hard to find where to put the bags, so we asked a man with a doorman outfit. He spoke English like he had been taught only a few phrases that ignorant tourists needed. Which might have been true.

We got ginger ale (for Cameron) and apple juice (for me) at the little shop they had at the gate. They Pokemon stuff there. I guess they just throw Pokemon stuff everywhere. Who doesn't want Pokemon? Anyway, the apple juice I bought (which I only understood to be apple juice because of the pictures of apples and '100%! VITAMINS!' printed on the label) tasted like actual apple juice. As if they took apples and smooshed them all up in a bottle. You know how apple cores and peels taste? There was a hint of that in the juice. ApPEELing? Perhaps.

While waiting at the gate jetlag punched us in the face. I was going to try and stay up with Japan time, but having only slept for 30 minutes on the plane I was very tired. Our plane arrived in two and a half hours from when we arrived at the gate, so we awkwardly slept on eachother's shoulders in those stupid airport bench-chairs. We woke up maybe 20 minutes before our plane would board. We stared at the TV which we couldn't understand and listened to the broken-English announcements. There was actually one ad I did understand since it was in English. North Americans trying to make Quidditch a real sport. Seriously.

Did you know that the airport staff bow to the phone before they make an announcement? Why do you do that, staff? I can't hear you bowing over the PA.

Anyway, we finally were allowed to board. We didn't get on the plane right away, though, we first boarded the “Friendly Airplane Limo Service” which was a bus which would take us to the tarmac for real boarding. I don't think I've ever gone onto a plane by way of a staircase. I always thought that was for rock stars and hockey teams.

The ticket receipt they printed for me was pink. While on the limo service I was looking at it and saw what they had put for my name. It was supposed to read 'Jamila, Ms', but because of a lack of spaces or punctuation my ticket was now for someone named 'JAMILAMS'. I was so tired that it was the funniest thing I could think of at that moment.

After a 1.5-2 hour flight we were in the New Chitose Airport, outside of Sapporo. Our baggage arrived, and Kendall was there waiting for us (much to our relief). We looked around for a restaurant in the airport, but everything closes at 9. Seeing as it was 9:10, we were SOL. Instead we started the long 3 hour drive home. On the road there was a curry house. We ate there. I was too tired to really care how it tasted, but I think it was good.

Then we drove some more. Then we were home.

December 31st

First day in Haboro. It was New Year's Eve and we had absolutely no plans. We woke up around 9-ish, which was surprising for a jet-lagged person. I had a bowl of Potato soup Kendall had in his cupboard. Cameron was still asleep, so we waited until he got up to make eggs. After breakfast Kendall and I explored Haboro. I sauntered through a 100¥ Shop where everything is hilarious, got an SD card at the electronic store so I can take my own pictures, and returned home to get Cameron. Together we all went to the department store to look for tea and a purse to replace the crappy broken one. The grocery section was lacking, so we moved upstairs to the purses. By the elevator we saw some students of Kendall's who were shy and probably terrified of us.

The purses were ridiculous. The department store was similar to something like Zellers, so I figured 'Hey, 15 bucks, get a purse'. The first purses we saw were 60,000¥ . Yikes. I obviously wasn't gonna drop 600+ dollars on a purse. So I turned around and saw purses marked at 2,000¥ . What? What kind of price range is that? It's like Banana Republic and Walmart had a Japanese store-baby.

I went to pay for that purse and the staff seemed to find my confusion with paying endearing. Kendall started talking to them and explained how he was the new English teacher and he lived close by. They made a lot of “Oooohhhhhh” noises and we left.

Kendall likes to introduce himself to people. It's...odd. I think it's happened two other times in our trip so far at least. If he catches someone staring at us he just walks over and goes “HI, my name is Kendall, these are my brother and sister! They are from Canada!” in Japanese, of course. Wouldn't that be weird if you were staring at some dude and he ran over to you to start a conversation? I digress. Actually, this whole journal is pretty much a constant digression. You should stop reading.

Kendall drove us around to look at the other sights in Haboro: waterside where the Ferry to the islands is docked, the museum beside said boat which contains information about Teuri and Yagishiri Island (where Kendall sometimes teaches), the carious schools of Haboro, this...big bird statue-thing which is Haboro's mascot, and the grocery.

Groceries are always fun in foreign countries. This is even more true for Japan. Everything has some kind of cute mascot with desu desu sparkle eyes and the food itself is weird and insteresting. I saw this bread in the convenience store that was pre-margarined. Really? You can't do that yourself? Anyway, the grocery was fun. There was a booze aisle and 4L containers of Shochu (similar to sake drinkthing?) and whiskey. Who needs 4L of any booze ever? Maybe people like to stock up months at a time or something. The candy aisle was full of stuff I didn't understand. I bought some to give to people, but it's probably all terrible. I had no idea what I was buying. My apologies if you get some kind of chocolate squid candy.

I saw French fries. I bought them and cooked them. It was awful. Well, not awful, but definitely not very french fry-ey. Anybody know those cafeteria fries with no actual potato inside of them? They tasted like that. We had to buy ketchup to deal with the taste. Which, by the way, came in a bottle in a bag. WHY? They package everything so much! I bought cookies in a box, but it was actually a cookie in an individual wrapper in a tray in a box. I think I'll survive if there's cookie touching, Japan. Stop with this.

When we got home I ate the french fries and ketchup while Cameron and Kendall cooked and ate fish. Salmon, I believe. Expensive salmon. It was more expensive than fish here and they fish it just on the other side of town. Jeez, Japan.

Pretty sure after eating we threw ass in Kendall's apartment for a while. As it got to dinnertime, Kendall and I went out in search of New Year's food. As we walked, however, we saw that every restaurant was closed! We assumed they treated New Year's the same way Canada does, but I guess not. Then we went home for no-dinner-found naptime. Then...NEW YEAR'S! We woke up around 11:00 and my brothers were hassling me to get up so we could go to temple. Kendall had heard that at New Year's you were supposed to go to the temple and party. Or maybe worship. One of the two.

So, at 11:40 we left the apartment and walked the 1.5 blocks to the temple. We saw Cameron (who had gone ahead) inside the window. He pointed to the right, so we entered through a door to the right. In there we took off our shoes and were met by a woman and her daughter in their kitchen. In Japanese she said to Kendall “You're in the wrong place”. Oops. We'd walked into their house by accident. They were nice about it and led us to where we were supposed to be. It was a small-ish room, maybe the size of a classroom. Half of it looked like a dojo with the tatamis and wooden walls and the like while the other...let's say third...was magnificently decorated with gold and incense. There was a golden chandelier made out of tiny shapes, a gigantic red lantern, and the back wall was all shrines; to the namesake of the sect of Buddhism, to a few guardians/deities, and a small section to the ancestors of the head monk.

I think it was the head monk. There were three people who were leading the ceremony: an old woman who looked at me and my brothers like we were horible, horrible people (or maybe that's just how her face is), a young monk in black, and the mainheadchief monk in white and gold. I didn't speak Japanese, so I just referred to them in my head as 'Blackey' and 'Whitey'. I didn't refer to the old lady at all. She scared me.

When we walked in all we saw was the old woman sitting at a large drum, Blackie walking around by the shrines and a bunch of chairs. Since we were there close to midnight we were worried that this was the wrong place or that the ceremony wasn't until later, or we missed it or something. Kendall tried to ask Blackie if we were allowed to be there, but forgot the word for 'be'. Instead he asked if we could sleep there or rest there. Blackie said no. Kendall looked awkard. Blackie said “Do you mean 'stay'?”. Kendall nodded. Apparently we were in the right place and were allowed to stay. Kendall did his intro again to Blackie. Then Blackie went back to monk things. A few minutes before midnight (maybe 2 or 3) people started coming in. They stared at us, spoke in Japanese about who the brown people were, etc.

The half with the tatami mats had about 30 chairs. By the time everyone was in, there were only one or two empty chairs. I think that's good attendance.

The ceremony finally started with Blackie chanting in Japanese and the old lady banging on the drum. This went on for a while before Whitey appearing in all his superior monk glory. He sat in the middle and began chanting as well. The chanting continued for some time, occasionally either of the monks would introduce some bell-hitting or wooden block-smacking. Much chanting later, people were invited to take part in the caremony. They lined up to get to the furthest wall, passing in front of Whitey. We went at the end of the line so we wouldn't look like asses. Here was the procedure:

  1. Bow to Whitey who was still chanting
  2. Kneel in front of the shrine in the seiza position
  3. Take some incense, put it to your head, throw it into a small fire.
  4. Stand up
  5. Bow to Blackey (also chanting)
  6. Sit back down

After I made a little bit of a fool of myself (I bowed to Whitey twice), I sat down in my seat. Whitey then went around to the back and did the same thing. He then came around to everyone and wished us health and happiness (or something like that). Not as a group, but by coming around to each person individually, clasping our hands in his, patting us on the shoulder, and hitting us on the back with some sort of fancy wooden cylinder. It was nerve-wracking. “Is he coming? He's coming! He's coming! He's going to hit me! Here he is next to me, AAAAAAAAhhhhh-- okay, he's gone.” The drumming was done after that, and he went back to the front to talk to us. I don't speak Japanese, but I think he was done with the formal part and had moved on the the “Happy New Year, everybody! Look at the brown people!” part. Only half-joking with that bit. He apparently said “We have some guests with us today, and I don't speak English very well, but I will say 'Happy New Year'!” (with the 'Happy New Year' said in English). I didn't catch it, I was too focused on trying to have the right mixture of looking at him and head awkwardly down.

We were then invited to pick up some arrows and charms, then to move to the right for some free sake. We stood awkardly because we weren't sure what the arrows were for and why we were going to a table, but Whitey noticed and started smiling, speaking Japanese, and gesturing to what we were supposed to do. He gave us incense to smell, arrows, and charms, then brought us over to sit on the floor with him and drink. Blackey poured us all sake. Never having drunk anything alcoholic ever, I was dreading it. Cameron whispered to me “All in one gulp, don't breathe” and I followed his advice. It BURNED. How it burned. I thought people said sake was supposed to be good? WHY. I guess I made some terrible faces because they didn't offer me any more.

After the normal sake was sweet sake. It might have been worse than the regular sake. Sweet sake was like a porridge, was sake, so it wasn't really. It must have been 98:1 sugar to sake ratio, it hurt to eat it, it was so sweet. The bowl for the sweet sake was also larger than the sake cup, so I couldn't eat it all in one dreadful swallow. I had to eat a bit, cringe, wait, then gulp more down. During this ordeal Whitey was making conversation with us and the Buddhist congregation. We were the main topic. Where are you from? Canada. Do you know Toronto? Yes. Quebec is nice! Yes. You've been? Yes. So on and so forth. A short while into this the main congregation wanted to leave, so they did, leaving our group, Whitey, Blackey, and Whitey's wife. It turns out Blackey was Whitey's son. Does that make him Whitey Jr.?

We talked for a while with more of the same questions. We found out that Whitey likes Jazz. Whitey's wife offered us Toshikoshi Soba, the traditional New Year's dish. We hadn't thought we were going to get any since all of the restaurants were closed, but we finally got some. It was really nice of them, actually. I mean, would you invite tourists to your dinner?

Some time after the sake and before the meal we went around and looked at the shrine with Whitey. He explained what the shrines were for and showed us a bit of his family tree; pointing to pictures of people and saying “Grandmother, Grandfather”. It was time to put out the candles around the shrines (there were six) when Whitey turned to us and said “In...Nippon...never -blows out-...only...-waves hand-”. Apparently candles had to be put out by quickly flicking your wrist. He showed us how to do it on some, then told us to try. It was deceptively hard. We all did it eventually. First Kendall, then me, then Cameron. We danced with joy.

We talked a lot more, Whitey smoked a LOT. In the time we were talking to him (one hour, maybe?) he smoked at least five cigarettes. I don't even think we was finishing them properly. I am no cigarette expert, but they seemed to be ¾ long when he put them out. Maybe they were just really really long and I didn't notice.

We finally said goodbye and thanked them for the food, they told us we are welcome anytime, and we walked back to the apartment for sleep.

January 1st

New Year's Day. Nothing was going to be open, of course, so we decided to do nothing. We woke up fairly late, ate eggs and toast, Skyped our parents. Kendall's co-worker, Kimura, came over and cooked us food. We thought he would stay and talk with us for a while, but he only stayed for a few minutes after cooking before going back to his family. He made us Mochi. I thought it tasted okay. It was mostly salty broth with some shitake and naruto. The weird part was the rice he put in it. It was extremely sticky, grilled, then put into soup. This resulted in a weird softhard paste the consistency of gum that wouldn't absorb sauce. The taste was fine, but there were major texture issues. Actually, the taste was bland, making it not worth it.

We went to a convenience store, got some ice cream in a cone, some butter, and some onigiri.

For dinner we decided to make ourselves some curry from a box. That seems to be a big thing in Japan. Or, I think it's more like it's increasing in popularity. We cooked carrots, potatoes, onions, and chicken in a pot with some water. Then you throw in what looks like curry paste dried up and squished into the shape of an icecube. Three or four of those and the water thickens to a thicker curry consistency. Yum.

We ate it with rice that Kendall had. The rice in Japan is so fancy. Kendall's apartment comes with a rice dispenser! You put rice in the top, then nearer to the bottom there are three trays; one for one serving, one for two, and another for three. You push whichever tray corresponds to what you need, then when you take the tray out it is filled with the exact amount of rice. MAGIC.

Also, did you know that you need to wash rice? I guess I've been doing it wrong. You put the rice in the pot, put enough water to submerge the rice, stir it with your hand, then dump out the old water. You repeat this until the water is clear when you dump it out. At first wash the water end up a milky white. I don't even know what exactly you wash off-- extra rice dust? What's it matter? It tastes good in the end, so maybe it's worth it. Oh, and the rice takes an hour in the cooker. Why. Don't you understand boiling, ricecooker?? I guess it must work some Japanesey magic to make the rice special.

Later in the day we made the trek to a bathhouse. We had no girls we knew to go with me, so I had to go into the women's bath butt-nekkid and alone. The bath was okay to look at; sort of like a hotel pool, but warm and split-up. There was a small coldwater bath, places to do your hair, a sauna, and a shower. I found the experience wholly unappealing. The bathwater was was too hot, leaving you feeling muggy and smothered. There was no comfortable way to sit since the baths were so shallow and every minute I was in it I was wondering how much longer I'd be forced to sit there. We agreed in advance that we'd spend an hour and a half in the bath, and I could only get through fifteen. I went into the sauna and waited a bit, dried off, got dressed, then sulked in the lobby waiting for my brothers.

They came out later, I whined about how much I hated the bath, they didn't care. We drove home and slept.

January 2nd

A time to do real things! The New Year's celebrations were mostly over, so we decided to drive somewhere. It ended up being Wakkanai, a city north of Haboro, close to the northernmost tip of Japan. The drive was pretty uneventful. When we got there we stopped at a dollar store only to find it closed. We then began searching for a place to shop or eat. Mostly eat. We went to Wakkanai station in hopes that it would be downtown, but found no stores.

Textual sidebar: At Wakkanai station I met a Diabeetus pigeon. He was very fat and waddled. He didn't move for cars, but insisted on only waddling faster. He wasn't afraid of people and if it was possible for pigeons to have moustaches he would have. Wakkanai had serious icy walkway problems (even worse than the already bad rest of Japan) that did not get Mr. Diabeetus Q. Pigeon down. On the way back to the car we stopped to say hi and he slipped while waddling. It was an incredible cute-animal moment. “He slipped on the icy road! He's just like people!” Also, since he was so round when he tripped, he just sort of rolled. “Down I go,..”

We walked around and found a hotel and went in figuring they would know where the eats was at. The woman at the front desk directed us to an eatery and we thanked her. Before going to eat we went to this...dome-path. Kendall said it's there to break any gigantic waves with hope of destroying Wakkanai. The city was still there, so it must be doing its job. Cameron ran to the other end for a picture to show how long it is. You can barely see him in the picture, but he's there.

Then we walked back to our car to search for food. The search was easy since the hotel woman had described how to get there, and we made it without any fuss. The restaurant was actually in a building on the second floor. It seemed like a mini-mall. Cheap foods were on the main floor and the nicer restaurants were one floor up. The main floor had a candy shop with a variety of goods. They had any candy I could ever want to give people back home. I probably should have bought more.

Here's where Cameron got drunk and wrote in my journal:

Then I realized Cameron had taken to writing drunk in my journal at 11 pm on January the fourth. Why? Who knows. Anyway, despite this obvious fact, I elected to go along with the farce, and ignored this paragraph entirely. It was mostly drowned in sake anyway, making the process much easier. I slept peacefully, knowing that Cameron's foolishness in drowning himself in booze and weed would eventually result in his untimely death at the hands of drunk, pothead criminals. He died on the fifth, and my journal restarts from this point, with all of the pesky mourning and burial details omitted for the sake of brevity. So it goes.

Then he got tired and passed out or I don't know what. This part happened in Sapporo in the hotel, I'm presuming. I very much was sound asleep in bed at that point. With one of the two pillows. More on that later.

Returning to the say in Wakkanai. We thought we were done after having eaten at the restaurant upstairs and buying candy, except for one thing: we had wanted to go to a mall. Or shopping, at least. Our previous attempts to find a shopping area buy going to the Wakkanai train station were fruitless, so we asked the waitress where there was a mall (or as Kendall said it: “SHAH-PING-U SEN-TA”). She said there were none in the area. She was a liar. As we gave up on shopping and started driving home—BAM, shopping centre. It was sort of like a large department store with many floors, but...different. If there was a different shop it was only separated by having a sign hanging and maybe some half-walls, giving the appearance of the whole building being more or less one giant store. I think it might have been one BIG store-shark with a variety of goods with a few smaller store-remoras.

I don't think I actually bought anything, but I saw some cool stuff. They had Pokemon toys! I was so excited. I didn't buy any because I figured I would get awesome stuff later at the Pokemon Centre in Sapporo. This was a bit of a mistake. They had the small toys that I later found in the Pokemon Centre, but what this mall DID have was talking Pokemon plushies! I now wish I had bought one, as they were nowhere to be found later. I would totally get a Pokabu. “Poka? Pokabu!” “How fascinating!” “Bu!” “Do you enjoy my company, dollpig?” “Kabu, Pokabu!” “I love you, too. But not like that.” “Pokabu...”

Maybe I'll find one later and have stupid conversations with it.

We drove—you know what? I feel like I saw 'we drove' a lot, but Kendall did ALL the driving since he was the one with the licence. I wish there was a way to say 'super thank you', but eh. That's a buttload of driving. In snow. The roads are all so terrible! Even the good roads are still a little slushy. In the north country a good driving day is if it only snows a little. If there's an empty parking lot he'll use the emergency brake to do a 360 degree turn like in pretty much every single car-related video game commercial ever. It's fun and probably a little dangerous.

Kendall drove us home and we passed out. I kept thinking sleeping in the car would make me less tired, but it just made me realize how tired I really was. So we slept as soon as we got home. Kendall got up around dinnertime—or, actually, I think it was more like 8 or 9. Anyway, he got up and woke me up, too. I was very reluctant to wake up, but I did need supper. Cameron was unwakeable, so Kendall and I went to a bar-restaurant-thing in downtown Haboro. The restaurant is maybe 5 blocks away from his apartment by walking, but it felt longer. I was tired and grumpy and cold. I really should have been nicer. I really regret being in a terrible moods and being mean to people. The restaurant was quite nice. It was very small, most of the room to eat was at a bar that was built around the chef. Not in an Edgar Allen Poe way, but sort of like a regular bar. Only instead of bottles of booze he has elements and assorted meat parts. And also booze. He drank while he cooked, he was a cool dude.

The chef spoke a little bit of English and had met Kendall once before, They talked in Japanese and the chef wanted to hear me speak Japanese. I blurted out some terribly-spoken words and felt very very very Wapanese. “Neko...uh....Inu.....uh.....Sumimasen.....uhuhuh.........???”. Protip: It's SO hard to think of words you know in a foreign language when put on the spot. I know more than that, but even know trying to type some I can't think. The chef seems unimpressed, but maybe it's because I was scared of him.

He presented us with delicious foods all coated with the same sauce. The sauce was delicious, though, so I cared very little. We had pork, chicken wing, and chicken skin all on small sticks like a more delicate shishkebab. We also had edamame's in a small bowl. I usually don't care for them that much, but they were good this time. I don't know, when I have edamames at home I think they sense my unease and rot themselves or something.

Kendall got me to try cider. I was thinking apple cider and didn't want to try it, but he insisted. In my state of angry being-woken-up-ness I missed his blatant “I like this and would really like you to try it: message. Who feels like an asshole? Jamilams.

We paid after we were done eating, walked back home in a much better mood, and went back to sleep.

January 3rd

Asahikawa day. We decided to venture to Asahikawa, famous for its ramen. We woke up early as I have most of the time this trip (it's the 5th as I write this), and made breakfast. It was eggs, bread and ham again. Always a good breakfast.
We left for Asahiwaka pretty early, getting there before lunch. The first thing we did when we got there was go to the zoo. Kendall wanted us to leave early so we could spend as much of our day as we could there.

The zoo itself closes at 3:30PM, so we wanted to get our money's-worth. It was a nice zoo, sort of small. Cameron spent most of the time complaining about how wrong zoos are and how we should just kill and eat them instead. I hate when people do that. Maybe because I just don't care. Zoos are fun. Animals can deal with it. Caged birds deal with it; you don't walk through people's houses saying “THIS BIRD WOULD BE HAPPER FLYING”. You say “Nice bird.” I don't know, people seem to think that the prettier the animal, the more it cares about captivity. I disagree.

I won't bother describing the zoo. If you want to know what it was like imagine any other zoo you've been to. Animals in cages or tanks, space to walk, information about their habitat to read, kids with ice cream. Not seen in Canadian zoos was a sign by the tiger cage. It was a drawing of a tiger's ass with it's face turning to the viewer (very FA-esque); written across it's cheeks was “My shit sprays. If my bum faces you, stand back”. They don't warn us in Canada! I could have been pooped on.

The one thing that I found really fun was a water tube. It went through the penguin area and was essentially a tube you walked through that was submerged in water. And penguins. The sensation was amazing. The water was moving all around you, and something about it made it feel sort of like being in motion. And it was pretty.

WHOA, Kendall just turned into traffic going the wrong way. Good thing there were no cars. We didn't die. Back to journal.

Cameron whined some more at the zoo and we finally left to go look for famous ramen. There was a specific ramen village where amazing ramen would be found, so we went there. There were signs pointing the way, so finding it was easy. When we got there we found that the “Ramen village” was really more of a long one-storey building with 10 ramen shops in it. We picked one at random and ate. It was good. I had an “Extra Special in Miso Broth”...or something.

After eating we walked around and shopped. We didn't find much and the clothing turns out to be expensive in Japan. We eventually found a Toys R Us and went in. It was just like Toys R Us in Canada with three exceptions. One, this Toys R Us had dolls for the Doll Festival in March, which was interesting to see. Two, this Toys R Us stocked anime figures. Fun for weaboos. Three, this Toys R Us had Pokemon Black and White versions. I was so excited. I couldn't have one, but to know it was within reach felt good.

We went looking for more shopping then. Kendall believed that all could be found by going to the 1, 1 block in a city. Small explanation, in Japan when you are downtown the blocks are split up and numbered like a mathematical grid. The middle point is 1, 1 and from there you can go to blocks like N2, E1 (N being north, E being east, etc.). Near to 1, 1 Cameron saw a walking shopping area and tild Kendall to stop the car. We found parking and walked back to the shopping.

It was exciting to see. This was the first big shopping area we had seen in Japan. The kind with tall buildings with ads and stuff. We walked and walked down the main street (it was a pedestrian mall, which was nice) and made it to the Asahikawa station, which had a mall inside. It had a few clothing stores on the various levels, and an “animation supply” store on the top. It was not as relevant to my interests as I had believed, it was mostly walls and walls of manga.
Kendall got excited over one store which had model cars. He's weird like that. “Look at this! It's the 06 Idontcare GX model!” It's kind of endearing, actually.

I bought some earrings here as souvenirs for my Mom. Flowers for her and some upside-down question marks with dangly bits for me. Not much else was bought here, mostly looking. We started getting hungry and went out into the cold again to get some fast food. We saw a McDonald's on the way and would have been fools to not go in.

McDonald's was great. Just like in Canada, which was what I wanted. You know what kids' promotion they had going on? POKEMON. Awwwwye'. I'm not below running into a fast food restaurant and gibbering at them in a language they don't understand until I get a Pokemon toy. The food tasted exactly the same. I guess fake-food is easy to fake wherever you are. I really wanted McDonald's, so it was delicious. I got a Pokabu toy. It's just a pokeball with a sticker of a Pokabu on the inside that goes “Kabu, Pokabu!” when you open it. Whatever, I like it.

While I was in the classy Mickey D's bathroom Kendall caught the eye of some giggling schoolgirls and he went over to introduce himself. They laughed a lot and whispered in Japanese to eachother. Then they took pictures of all of them with the strange brown person. I have no idea why Kendall went over to them. He's odd. We left them laughing and walked back to our car.

Went home and slept because I was tired. Cameron and Kendall wanted to go to Pachinko and did. I requested pictures from their excursion and got some. I slept more.

January 4th

Today was the day we decided to go to Sapporo. Kendall probably wanted to leave earlier than we ended up leaving, but what can you do. It was pretty stressful that morning. We made curry for breakfast and prepared the rice. We were sick of going somewhere and not knowing what to do, so we were going to look up what we wanted beforehand. That fell through. Or, rather, we just didn't get around to it.

The curry was being made and Kendall had agreed to let us stay in Sapporo in a hotel if we could find one that was super-cheap. I was looking around and the cheapest hotels were around 5000 yen for one person for one night. I found a five star hotel that would rent one room for one person for something like 6000 and suggested we go there. It was a very good deal for a fancy hotel. With much badgering and insisting that he live a little, we finally booked a nice room.

Here's were the troubles began. We made the booking through AGODA.COM. AGODA: THE ONLY SITE YOU NEED FOR BOOKING IN JAPAN. And it ended up being 7000 yen with sneaky fees and crap. Here was the problem, though, we needed to print out the voucher they send to your e-mail. Kendall has no printer. We only thought of this after it asked us to print it and we freaked out. We called Kendall's friends, tried to think of a Japanese equivalent of Staples, and a lot of other stuff to no avail. We finally got the thing printed by going to City Hall and asking them to do it for us. Phew. I might need to do that again to book the hotel near the airport on the way back. Hmmm.

We finally left for Sapporo around 10am-ish. Kendall drove for a while, then we got hungry. I think it was about halfway to Sapporo that we got food, maybe farther. Cameron wanted to go to Pizza Hut so we stopped the car by a Pizza Hut. Turns out it was a take-out place instead of a sit-down place. Instead of being awkward we went across the road to a HottoMotto. They were also a take-out place, but we felt better eating something remotely Japanese opposed to pizza-grime. We ordered food, waited for it, and ate it in the car like homeless people. The honey garlic wings were dericious. The noodles I had, not so much, but I was hungry. I mixed Kendall's sauce in with mine, which was a mistake. I felt uneasy for the rest of the carride. So for anybody planning to go to Japan, don't mix the sauce of different noodle bowls.

When we got to Sapporo we had to find our hotel first so that we could park the car. We accidentally parked in the super-fancy one by mistake, but we found our way eventually. There were a disproportionate amount of one-way streets for that one block. It seemed like 75%, which is just to mess with tourists, I think.

Kendall was being really antsy about the hotel. We booked a room for one adult, but were sneaking three people into it to sleep. He thought there would be a big problem if they caught us. There might have been, but I figured that the hotel staff either wouldn't see or just wouldn't care. I turned out to be right. Any time we passed by the front desk they didn't care.

Anyway, the hotel room was nice. The bed was a double, there was a tiny bit of floorspace and the bathroom was neat. I think the bathroom was bigger than most. It seemed closer to a Western bahtroom than a jampacked Japanese one. There was actually space to wash your face, use the toilet (which had buttons on it, of course) and shower. This is opposed to one space for all three. Well, maybe not three, but at least two.

Note to self: Discuss toilets more later.

The room also had free wireless internet that I used to harass people back in Canada. I told my friends of weabooland and all its wonders. I was very very excited because I was finally going to go to the POKEMON CENTRE! Home of all dreams and happiness. Kendall and I decided to walk and as a bum, Cameron opted to sit in the hotel and watch TV rather than witness the wonder of the Pokemon Centre.

Ducking past the front desk people who didn't actually care how many of us there were, we went outside. We went the wrong way at first, but used the opportunity to look at the Sapporo TV tower and some of the Christmas lights that were still up. I had a good time just walking around in all of the flashy lights and tall buildings. I adore cities at night.

I took pictures like a tourist and after much walking we made it to the JR Tower, a complex which has three connected malls. Yeah, not just one big mall, three big malls all bundled up together. It was wonderful in there. Being a mall it was mostly women's clothes and it would have been nice to see more variety, but whatever.

The elevators were full, so Kendall and I took the escalators 9 floors up to the Pokemon Centre. It was a wonderful sight to behold. I took pictures of the store, the stuff, the plushie wall, not everything, but the exciting things. They were pushing Zorua and Zoroark a LOT, for some reason. I guess because they're the new games' trophy creation. It was wonderful being in there, they had the music from the Pokemon centre on loop. Pure magic.

I myself a 30-dollar Lugia doll and a Cubone notepad along with so much other stuff for my friends. That was enough for one night. I also got myself some tights and hair elastics in a few of the stores. I was thinking that we were going to go out for dinner and wanted to wear a dress with my hair up. Little did I know that as soon as I walked back to the hotel I would be too tied for anything and collapse. Cameron wanted to find dinner urgently. I didn't feel like moving. Neither did Kendall. I was stubborn in my laziness and went nowhere. Kendall and Cameron left to walk around. Alone in the hotel room I fell asleep while cuddling Lugia.

Cameron and Kendall got back I don't know when. They brought me a hamburger and fries, which I ate before promptly returning to bed. I think that's the quickest I've ever gone from sleeping to eating to sleeping. Before I completely fell asleep I heard Cameron ranting about how he wanted to stumble drunk around Sapporo and find a nightclub. Kendall and I were too tired to care what he did, so we let him go. He came back some hours later having gotten lost and taken a cab home. I just went back to sleep.

January 5th

I woke up earlier than my brothers, having gone to bed earlier than they had. I talked on MSN with my friends for a while. I told them that I was still in the area of the Pokemon Centre and could return there. They freaked out in proper style. I got a list of demandrequests that took a while to figure out. I was pretty stressed that morning, finding out what people wanting while simutaneously trying to figure out what we wanted to do and where we wanted to eat all before the hotel would kick us out and we wouldn't have internet anymore. For the 'what to do' we decided to just shop and walk around. As for the 'what to eat' we decided that be would have brunch instead of breakfast (since Japanese people seem to hate breakfast) and for dinner I picked out the highest rated restaurant I found on some tourist site. Maybe tripadvisor. That's it. I think. I wrote down where it was and what the phone number was so that we could make a reservation.

We checked out on time, Cameron freaked out over losing his passport and found it in his coat pocket. We moved the car to a new parking lot with a bit of confusion on the way. Turns out you have to ask the hotel desk for overnight parking and if you don't they'll charge you 7000 yen instead. Protip: look confused and innocent and they'll give you the overnight parking.

Cameron started whining about finding food now. He was hungover and wanted to eat so that we wouldn't feel like barfing. We walked back to the JR Tower and went up to the 10th floor of the Esta Plaza for foods. We expected fast food, but found nice restaurants instead, which was a pleasant surprise. We picked on at random and got sat down at a table with two other people. We generally tried not to make eye contact or talk to them. While waiting for food a businessman sat down across from us. We talked about how important he looked and how he ate with precision (he got his food before us). When my food came along I had three different sauces in bowls and only two things to eat them with (breaded pork and salad). I made a noise something like “DUUUuurrrrrrrr” and the businessman pointed to one of the sauces, then at the salad and said “Jap-ur-neese Sarad...Du-ress-ing” and smiled. We were kind of embarrassed that we actually spoke a bit of English. I don't think he spoke enough to know that we thought he was important, though. Kendall made some small-medium talk with him and he left. He said something in Japanese which I assumed to be 'have fun'. Kendall said that he actually told us to be careful. I hope it wasn't a threat.

This is when Kendall told me that while Cameron and he were out the previous night a drunk guy told them that in Japan 10 percent of people are PURE EVIL. Kendall said it's interpreted as 'not that nice', but the actual words are 'pure evil'. I better watch my back.

After we ate we went down one floor to the Pokemon Centre to pick up doll requests. I didn't buy anything more for myself. I paid for the plushies on two separate bills and was leaving when the cashier chased me down. She held out my receipts and pointed to the raffle-type game they had out front. She gave my receipts to the man at the game desk. He then pointed at a wheel and made the sign for two. The wheel could be spun to let loose a coloured ball into a track. Depending on the colour you could win a prize. For spending so much money they gave me two tries. I spun it a bit too hard, but managed to get the right amount of tries by some fluke. Turns out that I won! The man started speaking rapid moonspeak, so I got scared and ran away to find Kendall. He had left me to die without telling me where he was, so I could not find him. I went back to the game table and the man had put my doll in a bag. He then held up two stickers, one with Ho-oh and one with Lugia, and I pointed to Lugia. Yay for me! I did it! It was probably funny to him to watch me flail and run around and look confused.

I then tried to find Kendall and Cameron. The Pokemon Centre is on the same floor as an arcade, so it was difficult. There were lots of machines and rows and alleys, but I eventually found them by the DDR. We went shopping some more then. Pretty much all day. Actually, yes, all day. We bought some Engrish shirts and ridiculous prices, I finally saw Pinky candy! It was only in plum flavour, but I bought it anyway. We went for ice cream which was delicious! I ordered chocolate and they cooked it like they would a stir fry. The only ice cream they had was vanilla, so they took chocolate and used those long metal spatulas that you see at Mongolian Grill to mix it. I laughed, I hope they weren't offended.

I got VERY tired of walking at a certain point so we tried to find chairs to no avail. We eventually (and I mean eventually; maybe an hour or more) found a coffee shop to sit in. There was smoking allowed in there, so it was a little gross, but the chairs were comfy. I ordered black tea and Kendall got some coffee. Kendall showed us Menthol cigarettes that he got for free from a Kent Cigarettes salesperson. He took one out and smelled it and told me to do the same. It smelled nice, like menthol instead of smoke and death. Like a cigarette potpourri. We were mid potpourri-sniffing when the waiter ran over and put an ashtray down. Kendall hastily said he wasn't going to smoke and we laughed at how stupid we must have looked. “Oh, I don't smoke, these are for smelling”. Also, he must have been watching us like a hawk. Sneaky waiters...

We shopped a bit more, then left for the restaurant. We wanted to kill a bit more time, so we went to the TV Tower. We were going to go up, but the price per person was 7 dollars and Kendall's cheap-senses wouldn't allow for that. Instead we looked at clothes in the gift shop. I wanted a t-shirt, but couldn't try it on, so the sales girl help them up to me and suggested sizes. The small I could already see was too wide for me, but she kept suggesting sizes up to large. SO I LOOK LARGE? And this large was actually large. Like my Dad might be small in it. It was huge. I bought a small that when I opened at home was printed backwards. Sigh.

We walked some more to the restaurant and saw a Nissan museum along the way. I asked Kendall the car-nut if he wanted to go in. He said no. I asked again. He said we'd be bored. I interpreted that as “I really wanna go, but you guys think it's lame”. I insisted we go in since we hadn't done anything fun for Kendall yet. He had fun. I had fun watching him have fun. I also enjoyed getting to sit in all these new cars. They had a sportscar that was warm and nice. Too bad it was 150,000 dollars.

It was so cold in the streets. I had tights on, which was awful. We made it to the restaurant and went inside. It was amazing in there. We only had to wait a few minutes to sit down. The restaurant was only a long bar with no tables. Each chair and a half had a fire pit with a metal dome over it. There were onions around the edge and a piece of fat to grease the pan on the top. They gave you sauce and a bowl of raw meat which you cooked yourself on the pan. It was delicious. It was very fun to cook it even though it's you doing the work. It was also smoky enough in there from the cooking that I didn't notice when people smoked. There was also an interesting combination of being warm from the fire in front of you and cold from people opening the door. Overall it was a fantastic experience.

We paid the reasonable bill and headed towards our car. On the way we decided that we needed some fries since the good meal had only been meat and onions. We found the nearest Mos Burger (delicious, btw. It's what I had when I had supper in the hotel bedand got some fries. They were actually better when I had them cold the night before. I love cold french fries.

We made it back to the car, stopping at a convenience store for a bathroom (and some not-Pinky mints that taste like Pinky!), and went back to Haboro. We slept most of the way. Not Kendall, of course. I'm gonna take the time now to thank him in this journal again. So much driving, thank you. I'm avoided train-ride-molestation.

Oh yeah, I made a note of this: in the convenience store I used the bathroom. I didn't lock the door because I thought that Kendall and Cameron were right outside of it. The door opened and I was about to say “What, Kendall” when I found not my brother, but a Japanese man looking back at me. He said something, and hurriedly closed the door. When I got out my brothers both asked me why I didn't lock the door. I explained. They then told me that the guy who had tried to go into the bathroom ran out of the store after seeing me. Apparently me on the toilet is equal to Godzilla.

January 6th

Today was a do-nothing day. Kendall had to go to work, so we were stuck in Haboro. He left at 8:58 and returned later because he was underdressed. On New Year's apparently you need to dress up for a picture with your co-workers. He put on a suit, then left again.

I did nothing all morning. Talk to Max, talk to my Mom, whatever. Kendall came back at noon and said that if I wanted to come to work I should go now. I showered, got into my dress (since it was a formal day) and walked with him to work. This part sounds easier than it actually was. It was VERY windy out and snowing. The snow was light at this point, but the wind was still hair-whippingly strong.

Slightly cold and windblown we made it to the office (which is only two blocks from Kendall's apartment). We went up to the fourth floor and said hello to everybody. Kendall made me repeat what he said in my ear, then bow. I have no idea what I said. I think it was a polite introduction. There were two people I knew; Kimura (who had made us food), and Midori (a woman who I met briefly after Kendall has printed out the hotel voucher). Everyone else was a new face. Kendall would say who they are and what position they held and I would awkwardly go in for a handshakebow, since I didn't know which one to do. They talked in Japanese to eachother and one man asked me thorugh Midori if I would take my glasses off. I said “Okay...” and did so. He looked at my face then gave the Colonel Sanders a-ok hand gesture and said “Beautifurr”. I put my glasses on and awkwardly said 'thanks'.

After that, Kendall found me a desk to sit at and went to work. He made up his schedule of what to do with his students for the coming semester and gave me a job to do. He was making flashcards for his students to be able to remember words relating to weather and seasons. He wanted me to draw him flashcards for windy, cloudy, rainy, snowy, summer, winter, fall, spring. It took much longer than i had thought. He told me to put no effort in, but as an artist I could not do so.

On his own Kendall had drawn a sun to represent sunny. Everyone at his office thought ti was hilarious. He draw the sun large and yellow with a swirl of orange in the middle, like on naruto. His co-workers took turns commenting on how it was 'the worst', or 'so bad'. I thought it was cute. Like little kid art. When they saw what I was drawing for him they made even more fun of him. They thought my art was good and sensitive with feeling (I still don't understand why it's sensitive with feeling?) and said that Kendall should show mine alongside his drawing of the sun to his students to teach them contrast. I had fun drawing trees. I had 30 pencil crayons to work with, so I could do an okay job. They were very impressed. People who can't do art are always impressed by art. Even when it's just okay.

I went home with Kendall at 4 o'clock and ate some toast as a very late lunch. Kendall had a employee dinner to go to at 6; a dinner to which Cameron and I weren't invited. Cameron found a restaurant in downtown Haboro that we wanted to go to, and Kendall offered to drop us there in his car before he went to his dinner.

This is where it starts to get interesting. At around 5:30 or 5:45, we went to the car. Remember that wind and snow I had been talking about? It had gotten worse. It was now dark outside, so the visibility was lowered, and it was snowing much heavier. We got into the car and turned left onto the street. The windshield had not been defrosted, so to see we had to lean forward and look through the bottom. We could only see maybe two cars ahead before there was just white and snow. Cameron insisted that we pull over and that this was the worst idea he's ever been a part of. Kendall kept driving. Oncoming cars were easy to see because of their lights, so I wasn't nervous. The problem came with the roads. Kendall was having difficulty telling where he was, and he were traveling at a snail's pace to avoid accidents. We made it to the Sunset Plaza (a hotel) before he got stuck in the snow. Cameron and I got out to help push.

In getting out of the car we could see how bad it was. The lower-snow area of the road was slightly lower than knee-deep. Kendall had driven into the side which was knee-deep. Through much pushing and rocking we got him unstuck. We drove the car into the Sunset Plaza parking lot to think and wait. By this time Kendall was already late for his dinner. He went inside to talk to the hotel staff. He came back with a few men who helped get Kendall out of the parking spot. We discussed amongst ourselves whether we should just go home or still try to eat out. I wanted to go home to avoid walking in the weather, Cameron wanted to eat right away. Kendall came up with the idea that we could eat at the hotel, then take a cab home. This pleased both parties, so Kendall dropped us at the hotel door, then left.

The hotel restaurant on the main floor was nice, but when we walked up to the door the man said “Reservation only” and pointed us towards the 7th floor restaurant, which was non-reservation. We went up, ordered (with some diifficulty because Kendall wasn't there to save us) and waited. We got our food (both of us had Tempura with Soba noodles) and started to eat. Partway through our meal a woman came over to us and said something in Japanese. We looked confused. Eventually she managed to get out 'Telephone'. I said “For me?” and she nodded. She took me to the phone where I said “...hello?”. I got “Jamira-san?” as a response. I recognized Kimura's voice. I said yes. Kendall then came on. I guess Kimura had been more able to tell hotel staff that he was looking for brown people in a restaurant somewhere.

Kendall told us that cabs weren't running because of the weather and that we'd have to walk. I told him we didn't know the way and with no visibility it would be even harder. He said that he would either get someone to come and pick us up in their car, or he would come and meet us on foot and we could walk together. He said he would call back when he knew and hung up.

I went back to Cameron at our section of the bar (this restaurant had no tables again) and explained. We waited and ate for a while longer before another woman came over and told us “Kendaru-sensei, phone”. We said okay and pointed towards where the phone we had used last time was. She brought us there to pay our bill and just said “Arigatou gozaimasu”. We waited a bit more and she just repeated herself. We said “Phone?” and she told us to pick it up in our room. Oops. We told her we have no room and I'm pretty sure this only confused her more. We finally got 'front desk' out of her, so we went back downstairs to their phone.

This was a time for more confusion. They didn't really speak English and we didn't really speak Japanese. It was a plethora of language barrier awkwardness. We asked to use their phone. They looked at us weird. Maybe they thought we wanted it to call America or something. Eventually Cameron was smart enough to mention 'Kendaru-sensei'. This clicked with them since someone by that name had just called! They said something like “Are you Kendaru-sensei moonspeakmoonspeak?” and Cameron said he was “Boku-no otoutou”. They looked at eachother awkwardly. I think this time because they hung up on him when he had been expecting us to come and pick it up ourselves. They asked if we had his number. Cameron found it on his phone and pointed it out. Seeing a Japanese number instead of something that would cost them all the yen in Japantown calmed them down and they led us to the phone.

We called Kendall and he told us that he would come by in 45 minutes and pick us up on foot. Then we would brave the storm and walk the five blocks or so home. We thanked the staff for the phone and went to sit down.

TOILETS. I told you it was coming back. While waiting we figured “Hey, toilet!” so we went to the toilet. It was then that I realized that heated toilet seats are AMAZING. I was cold and my ass was cold. Sitting down on that heated seat was like being a king coming home to my throne. I was powerful, I was in charge, I had it all figured out, everyone would bow before me, I WAS THE KING. Toilet-sama made it all possible. I also tried the bidet for the first time. Did you know that it's SUPPOSED to shoot water up your ass? I DIDN'T. I thought it was supposed to be a rich-person experience! And it wouldn't stop, either! I thought it was timed or something, but nope. It just kept happening! Then I realized there was a stop button. Long story short: the toilet raped me.

CONTRAST: I wanted to mention this, too. Kendall's toilet at home is cold as friggin icicles. The front door entryway and the bathroom are in an area that he doesn't heat in order to keep his bedroom warm. So going to the bathroom in Kendall's house is like being sent to a dump-dungeon. He bought these felt cover-things that help with cheek-heat, but not with general coldness. You learn the value of being able to get in and out as quickly as possible.

Back to the main story: Kendall arrived exactly 45 minutes later. He was covered in snow. I prepared myself for going out there, but no amount of mind-preparing would really do it.

This was my Nam. It was winder and snowier than I had ever seen it in Canada and we had to walk. It was like nothing had been plowed. All roads were at LEAST knee-deep in the parts that hadn't been driven on. The sidewalks were worse. Just getting out of the hotel parking lot was terrible. We tried to run to get through as fast as possible, but I couldn't do it. It went from boot-deep to knee-deep to waist-deep. So deep that when you slipped you only fell into more snow. Kendall was going too fast for me, I almost lost sight of him at some times, my lungs were burning from running too hard and I couldn't keep up. Cameron really pulled through for me, he insisted Kendall slow down so I could keep up and made sure to stay close to me. When we were out of the waist-deep snow and we had to run again he took my arm to help me. It was hard to tell where we were. Part of it was the snow falling and part of it was the high wind blowing already-fallen snow into our faces. It felt like tiny knives instead of ice particles and my cheeks were stinging. It was only five blocks, but it was terrible.

We eventually made it to Kendall's car downtown. He hadn't been able to drive it home because of the snow. We tried to drive it out, but couldn't. We borrowed a shovel from a man closeby and dug the car out. We managed to get to Kendall's driveway without getting stuck, but getting in was a different matter. I ran inside to get the shovels so that we could clear a path in the knee- to waist-deep snow. At this point I knew my pants were going to be soaking, so the deepness of the show didn't even matter. It was all just piling on. We had three shovels now and we cleared the way for the car into the minilot. Getting it in was fine. Getting it into Kendall's spot was not. In our stupidity and laziness we thought to just drive it into the knee-deep snow without shoveling. Doing so results in a stuck car. We dug out the wheels with little success. People passing by from the city hall saw us and helped. Then more stopped by. Then more. In the end we had maybe 8 people helping us get it out. We cleared the spot, rocked the car back and forth, and eventually lifted the car to get it unstuck. There was much celebrating and everyone went home.

We warmed up in the house, regained feeling in various extremities, then went to sleep.

Before actually falling asleep Kendall informed me of some of what his co-workers had said. Apparently one of the men (I'm assuming a man) said to him “Your sister...BUH-BONG” referring to my breasts. I laughed. Only in Japan is a B-cup a reason to celebrate. Boobzirra!!

Also, they thought my eyelashes were comparable to those of a model. Hooray.

January 7th

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. The roads are awful and nothing can be done, so we don't even try.

We make ourselves spaghetti sauce with beef that we bought, carrots, and some onions. Cameron does all of the work because Kendall and I are so very lazy.

I play Diablo II for hours. Level 35 Druid, kill kill kill kill.

Kendall and Cameron decided that they should do SOMETHING, so they tried to go to the gym. The gym was closed, and they went back to the bathhouse. I didn't go because I'm not a masochist. While they were gone I packed my overly full suitcase with my many many many Pokemon. I had to roll up all of my clothes and sit on top of it while I sipped it up. I still couldn't fit my binders, so they had to go in with my carry-on (VERY heavy, by the way). Cameron and Kendall came back by way of taxi and found my playing Diablo. We did even more nothing.

Cameron went to bed around 9:00, I played Diablo even more.

Yuki (Kendall's neighbour) stopped by late at night. It must have been around midnight because I was already in bed. He rang the doorbell and Kendall answered in his boxers. After a bit of talking Kendall yelled at me to stay under the covers and hide my shame, as Yuki was coming inside. It's oddly un-awkward to shield yourself with a big comforter.

Turns out Yuki wanted to make us dinner before we left for Canada. Kendall thought our flight was on the 10th, so Yuki planned a party for the 8th. We had been planning to go to Sapporo on the 8th, stay in Chitose (just Cameron and I), and take the hotel shuttle to the airport on the next day, but this complicated things. Kendall decided that on the next day he would nap all day, go to the party, sleep some more, then make the drive to the airport ridiculously early in the morning.

It would have been much easier if our flight was later, but it was at 7:50am. The airport is 4 hours away from Haboro. Great.

Yuki left, and Kendall and I watched the new episode of Modern Family before finally getting to bed at 12:30.

January 8th

Some things are done. We make good on our plans sort of.

Kendall and I go to the grocery to pick up some presents for my friends and to the gas station to get gas for the long drive.

The grocery is fun, I try some kind of waffle-like food with custard in the middle cooked into the shape of a fish. Kendall stocks up on some food like milk and juice and I buy more candy. We run into a few people like we always did there and Kendall awkwardly forces his students to say hi in English. They don't actually do it, but he tries.

Next we go to the gas station. It's exactly like going to gas station.

Afterwards Kendall asks if I want to go to the High School and see what students are doing. He assumed some clubs would be back in and I could meet some people. We go, and inside it's FREEZING. They didn't heat the building at all. The only source of heat were individual heaters that the students had. Oh, yes, there were students. Band members! I got to hear them play. There was nothing overly Japanese being played, just your standard brass and winds and percussion. The students were either shy to see us, or laughed at us being there. Apparently Kendall is hilarious to Japanese students.

We went back to the apartment after that, Cameron hungry and grumpy from having skipped most of breakfast. He wanted to go to the restaurant we had had his eyes set on on the day of the blizzard. So we drove there.
The restaurant was...interesting. Anyone who knows me will know that shrimp with heads on are my arch-foes. And that was what was in almost everything. Instead I opted for the ramen; which, upon arriving, I found smelled gross and tasted all right. We were generally unimpressed. I actually found it harder to eat in the presence of the evil soulless-eyes shrimp heads.

So we paid for the food, went back to the grocery to pick up some chicken I could eat, then returned to the apartment.

I played Diablo, watched a movie with Cameron, and Kendall napped the entire time. We woke him up for Yuki's party.

The party consisted of us, Yuki, and Yuki's friend. He cooked us some soup with lettuce, mushrooms, and seaweed. It was tasty. I tried Calpis for the first time and found it horrifically sweet. It was like a milk soft drink plus more sugar. Cameron, Yuki, and the frienddude drank beer and the whiskey that Cameron had bought as a gift. There was much drunken peeing all around.

After we had finished eating the main parts of the soup Yuki threw in rice and eggs into the remaining brother and cooked it. I have no idea why. Supposed to taste good, I guess, but it did not. The taste was okay, but I found it hard to eat rice and egg together.

Cameron was passing out a little from drinking so much and went home before Kendall and I did. I was planning on going with him, but when I told Kendall so he said “You are?” and made a face like a kicked puppy. So I stayed.

Yuki and Kendall talked about cars a lot. And I mean a lot. Which one do you like? Really? Me too! Cars! Torque! 4WD! 2WD! Engines! Off-road! Axels! Meanwhile I sat and felt sleepy.

Kendall was in the bathroom for a little while and it instantly because 5 times harder to communicate anything. I managed to establish that I lived in a house with two friends and that I take animation in college. They gave me a piece of paper and told me to draw. Kendall came back while I was drawing. Apparently my art was (according to Kendall's translation) delicious and just a bit amazing.

Yuki likes to touch, apparently. I was too tired to care. And he was a nice person, so it didn't seem creepy. He tickled Kendall while they were talking about Kendall's abs, so that sort of made sense. Later when I was lying on my back with my knees bent he did that thing where you make a rigid circle with your fingers for the purpose of tickling. When that barely worked he switched to knee-poking. Then when that didn't work he switched to knee-poking with a pen. Apparently pens=efficient tickle tools.

Yuki gave me a wooden postcard from Yagishiri island and a package of Hokkaido ramen as a souvenir. As we left I gave him a hug that turned out to be physically awkward since it sort of started out sideways. Then Kendall said “Aren't you going to hug him, too?” referring to the friend. Yuki's friend was 5'3”. I'm 5'8”. This hug has less like a hug and more like me enveloping a small Japanese man.

Kendall and I walked the long two steps back to the apartment, then proceeded to get our two hours of sleep.

January 9th

Japan enjoyed us, but now it wanted us out.

We woke up at 1:30, packed what was left to be packed, then got onto the road. We stopped at the Seicomart for some corn chips (which were gross and tasted like shrimp), some haichu, and some coffee in a can for Kendall.

It was awkward to sleep in the car and the badly-ploughed roads resulted in a very bumpy car ride. On the direct highway to the airport the snow was so uneven an scraping the bottom of the car that we had to take an alternate route. Cameron feared for his life. I was just tired.

I slept all the rest of the way to the airport. When we got there we checked our luggage and yelled at the woman until she made sure our bags went to Toronto, NOT Ottawa. Yelled is a strong word, but we did have to repeat ourselves a lot. We were going to have breakfast, but the restaurants opened at 7. They were taunting us. We went to the bathroom, then said our goodbyes to Kendall. Customs was easy as it always is in Japan. No trouble at all. We got onto our plane and I got a window seat facing the sun. My face was melting and I loved it. I slept for a short while.

In Narita we got to wait for 8 hours until our next flight, hoorayyy. We went to the airport mall and ate VERY overpriced Japanese Denny's. We walked around, I paid 300 yen for a manicurist to remove my disgusting chipped nail polish. I bought any remaining souvenirs for friends. Super-awesome golden bookmarks. I think they're awesome, Cameron thinks I have terrible taste in gifts for men. Who doesn't like gold? It's GOLD. Come on. It's shiny. Dudes dig shiny, right?

Guess what I found in a toy store in the airport? OTAMATONE. Right? RIGHT? I was so excited. I bought a black one. I will play it and annoy everyone. So cute. I also found a deck of cards with Laputa screenshots on every one. I love it. Chow would probably like to see them, but I would feel sort of bad being like “LOOK WHAT I BOUGHT. Cards from your favourite movie. Oh, what? It's not actually FOR you, silly.” Whatever.

OH, I forgot. Before we went through customs we checked in. Our flight was delayed two hours and a half. Gross. For the inconvenience they gave us two 1000-yen coupons for use at any restaurant in the airport. NOT gross. We got subway, who has potato wedges. Did you know that? I didn't. I ate half.

Past the customs gate (customs 2.0) there was a toy store with Pokemon stuff. I wanted to buy a Pokabu for myself, but Cameron said I should ask myself if I've spent enough money. I had. Way too much. Sorry, Pokabu.

I got an oreo McFlurry in the post-customs McDonald's. I'm pretty sure I gained 4 pounds from eating junk that day alone. It was delicious, whatever, no judgement. We were smart enough to get a cart for my ridiculously heavy laptop. It felt so good to not have it hurting my shoulder. And I could have McFlurry to eat while pushing it. Yay!
Cameron bought a bottle of Grey Goose for 32$. Pretty good, apparently. Guess what? The stewardess wouldn't let him drink from it on the plane. He had OJ and vodka, but for some reason they were like “NO, you drink OUR OJ and vodka.” It wasn't even about money, since the drinks on the plane were free! Why does it matter, woman? Cameron says it was a power trip. Probably.

I slept 9 hours on the flight back, so it was much easier than the flight in. I sat next to a nice dude. I called him Bamow in my head. Blonde Airplane Man Office-Worker. We made just a step above small-talk. More than weather, less than politics.

Canadian customs-man was very angry and unwelcoming. Instead of “Welcome back” I got “WHERE ARE YOUR RECEIPTS?” and an intense glare. I'm sorry, misterman.

Our bags arrived in Toronto successfully and we were picked up by my Grandma. We were driven to my aunt's in Toronto and slept there. Now it's 6:32 and I'm finishing this long-ass journal. Feels good to be almost done. I actually have to go back and fill in the beginning of the trip, but whatever. Close to done still! I've been awake for hours. At least 3. I was with my grandma on the futon at first, but at 4am Cameron came downstairs and asked if I was awake, too. I was. We did a trade so that the jetlaggers are downstairs where we can be awake.

Anyway, that vacation was great. I find myself missing Japan already. Or maybe I just miss my brother. It'll be a very long time before I see him in person again. When I do it'll be even more exciting. Having done all the tourist stuff we'll get to just talk and sit, which is also a pleasant vacation. Different, but pleasant.

So, until next time I have a vacation (which is hopefully not for a long long time because these journals are HARD), Goodbye.


No comments:

Post a Comment