So now onto my adventures in Tokyo! In the past two weeks I have managed to many things, so let me start from the beginning. Two Sundays ago I went with other UC students to Sunshine City. In Ikebukuro there is a skyscraper built on old prison grounds called Sunshine 60 (they named it "sunshine" most likely due to the history of the plot of land) and then around Sunshine 60 is Sunshine City. This "city" is an attempt to have everything a person needs in one place including entertainment, shopping, and workplace. The main reason we decided to go is because the Sunshine 60 building is supposedly haunted and there is an observation deck at the top of the building. While it wasn't exactly what I was expecting and definitely no signs of it being haunted, I had a great time and then afterwards the group decided to head to Shibuya to see the crossing (see pictures below).
Because I didn't have class I took a leisurely one-hour stroll to the grocery store and came home to cook myself some curry. (It was quite tasty).
Then Tuesday through Friday I had my weekly courses in the morning and Japanese culture classes in the afternoons. Tuesday's culture class was on Rakugo (落語) which is a traditional Japanese comedy style where one man sits in front of a group and tells a story with only a fan and a piece of paper as his props. A Rakugo performer from Sweden was brought in to present to our group (in English) and he performed two stories. The funniest was a story very similar to Tikki Tikki Tembo where a boy's very long name creates comedic scenes.
On Wednesday a volunteer tour guide came in to give us a virtual tour of the Imperial Palace grounds and I cannot wait for spring to come so I can go photograph all of the flowers that will be there.
Thursday was a free day so I returned to Makuharihongo (home) early and went to the Ward's office to get my residence card verified for my stay in Japan. After helping me at the Ward's office my mentor took me out to dinner with his wife and their friends. While there I had aged beef, DELICIOUS potatoes and many other foods (see photos below). I had a great time talking with everyone there and hope to meet them again someday!
Friday we had a business lesson after class and then went to a pub to watch the Asia Cup. After Japan won, I returned to the hotel in Kameido with all the guys in my group to learn how to play Texas Hold'em. (Don't worry mom, I only lost 25 yen).
On Saturday, Josh's host mom invited us to a celebration near their "mansion" where I was able to beat some mochi and try eating mochi. For those of you that are wondering, mochi is a common treat in Japan. It is made by cooking rice but making it really watery and then while it is still hot beating it into a paste that is then topped with various things. My favorite variety is the kinako kind. Kinako is a sweetener that isn't quite as sweet as sugar and is powdered soy beans I believe. After our mochi adventure we had Chinese with Josh's host family and then went to Akihabara to go figure shopping. Apparently little figurines of famous anime characters are VERY popular here. Seeing as I am just now watching my first anime series, I didn't recognize any of the figurines but it was a very fun experience.
Then starts last week where after class on Monday I adventured to Funabashi to find some Coldstone green tea ice cream. Little did I know beforehand that Funabashi is actually a port city. It was really fun seeing the shipping warehouses up close and some of the boats! AND we found a Pokemon center on our way to ice cream!
Tuesday we had class and then our first lesson on Japanese tea. After the lesson, we watched Japan win another game in the Asia Cup. Wednesday after class we had our second lesson on Japanese tea and then had a tea party. The instructors at our language school all called me a tea master. We got to try two types of sencha, genmaicha, and hojicha. I may at some other point in time make a post just about the teas. Basically, they are delicious and I love them all.
Thursday we discussed stereotypes of Japanese and American people with out culture teachers, went to Book Off (a second-hand shop) where I bought myself some new jams! Then I went to my first 回転寿司(Conveyor Belt Sushi) restaurant and enjoyed some delicious sushi.
On Friday we went to an English pub to watch one very good soccer game. Japan played UAE in the quarterfinals of the Asia Cup and within the first 10 minutes UAE had scored a goal, but Japan came back to tie the game and between the 90 minutes of play time and 30 minutes of overtime, Japan had taken 37 shots-on-goal to UAE's 7 and then lost the game in the sudden-death penalty kick overtime. Needless to say, I was very sad after that game. After the game we had dinner and then went to Karaoke for the 3rd time. It's still really fun and I still suggest it to anyone visiting the area.
On Saturday we were invited to another event with Josh's host mother so Josh, Cameron, Anthony, and I went to a たこ焼き Party (Takoyaki, a ball of batter, octopus, and other fillings, all fried.) at a Japanese family's apartment where we made our own sushi and takoyaki and were able to try some new drinks and have awesome chats with a bunch of parents. It was a lot of fun!
I'll hopefully post more soon, but please enjoy all these pictures of food until next time!!