A short trip ends, a long journey begins

This is the last entry of my diary and I got a bit emotional, so this won’t be a usual post, it’s more of a farewell. As I wasn’t particularly happy about returning, this isn’t a particularly happy post.

The last day of school has passed; in about 30 hours I’m to return to Romania. I’m not sure what will happen from now on, but as for my time here, it has been eye opening and a wonderful experience, through the good and the bad. I wonder how I’ll remember it, as the time passes, but for now I feel wiser, like I’ve taken a huge step in my own development.

All in all Japan was exactly what I thought it would be; no more and no less. In the month I’ve stayed here I’ve gotten accustomed to it as if I’d lived here all of my life. As for advice, I have but one: don’t waste your time here. If you’re coming to Japan, do things, make things happen. It’s simple, but it’s also easy to forget, so keep reminding yourself to go out and do things. Apart from that just enjoy the ride, because it’s quite an experience.

My friends from Russia have already left; saying goodbye to all of the friends I’ve made here has left me with a strong feeling of emptiness. Living here has made me forget, but the nearing of my departure has reminded me; this dream won’t last forever. Still, whatever happens from now on, I will always remember these weeks I’ve spent in Sapporo. The bonds I’ve forged, the memories I’ve made; these, at least, I will have with me wherever my road may take me.

I hope we will meet again my friends, this last entry is for you.

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Into the dorm

This time I’m going speak about a subject I haven’t touched upon yet. The crazy old lady that lived next to the dorm and that one really creepy Korean guy. I’ll start with the old lady since there’s a lot more to write about.

She lived in the building right next to the dormitory and it was quite busy under her window since people were getting their bikes, leaving their bikes, talking and so on. Since she hated foreigners you can imagine she didn’t like that very much, so she had a habit of filming people talking, taking pictures, threatening us, or just calling the police. This probably doesn’t sound as amusing as it really was.

First off this was utterly pointless. The police never actually did anything but tell us to be a little more quiet and they visited a lot. I suppose it’s because she’s the only one complaining and it happens every other night, so I guess the police doesn’t really take her seriously anymore.

I should probably explain why I found her so amusing. If you’ve ever heard guys using “tough guy” speak and picking fights in Japanese you’ll understand, because that’s exactly how she spoke. Crude, stupid and inelegant, most likely trying to impress us. There were two problems with that. First, she was small and old (although she did have a really loud voice) and second, she yelled at us from the comfort of her home on the second floor.

I only once saw her outside; she was going into the building and while she faced the door she was yelling “I’m gonna kill you!”. I don’t think she was trying to kill the door and since I was the only person around, it appeared she wanted to kill me. She could have charged at me with a kitchen knife and I still would have laughed in her face. I suppose she thought I didn’t understand what she was saying because I never gave the impression I understood apart from laughing, but I enjoyed letting her think I didn’t understand.

One time she turned off the lights in her home, pulled the curtains and poked her head out to spy on what we were doing. Like Harry Potter under a defective invisibility cloak. I almost miss her…

Ok, now for the Korean guy. He lived in the dorm and he was really weird. I’ve never seen him speak to anybody. All that guy did all day was chain smoke. Chain smoke and laugh by himself, like he was plotting something. Maybe he was from North Korea, that would explain a lot.

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A tale of nothing much

I’m not sure if things stopped happening, or I just stopped taking note of them, but I haven’t written anything about the mid-part of my stay in Japan. To be honest, the first time something happened it was interesting, but after a while I got used to it. As such I will skip the uninteresting parts.

This Friday (The Friday of my third week) I’ve had the ultimate test of the Japanese abilities I’ve gained so far, interviewing random people. To that end we’ve received homework to think of some questions we’d like to ask the locals. My first thought was to ask them about something I like, for example video games, books, anime and so on, but then my better judgement stepped in and I made up questions about food.

Even I, who would give up eating if at all possible, would know what to answer if asked about my preferences in food, so, as I expected all of the people interviewed could answer my questions without problem. I’ve gotten 4 interviews, while my other classmates got 2, 1 and 1. Otherwise said, I’ve gotten 4 by myself, while they got 4 between the three of them. It’s nice when forward thinking pays off. My classmates went with questions about video games, sports or the lottery.

The mean age of the women I’ve interviewed was 25. Unfortunately, that means I got two middle school girls and two older ladies. It was amusing talking to the girls because they kept consulting each other and laughing. When I asked about their favorite sweets they both went “Choco!” on me; the older ladies didn’t like sweets. I was a bit anxious talking to them at first, but after a while I got used to it and started to have fun. Well, until the police came and threw us out of Sapporo Station (Ok, politely asked us to leave, whatever).

The teacher himself was pretty funny because he was just as anxious as we were, since he had the task of asking the people if we could interview them. The people were friendly though and anxiety aside, it was fun and I would do it again if I could. I wonder if I’ll ever get the chance to do it again…

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No bikes allowed!

If you recall, my last story ended with me losing my wallet and drinking myself into oblivion. The next few days were tough; after 30 hours of hunger I had to ask my friends to lend me some money for food, but to everyone’s surprise, after 3 days my wallet was found. Aoko and I went to the police station to pick it up and everything was in there; yes, ALL of my money too. Surprised doesn’t seem to cover it, but I’m really thankful to the person who found and returned my wallet. Since I didn’t write much during my hunger phases, I will continue with the entries that come after finding it.

So, people went out drinking last night for a goodbye party and we took the chance to attend, since we hadn’t gone out in a while. I don’t know where the Russian guys got the idea that I can keep up with their drinking but the night was opened as such:

“Let’s do tequila shots!” – I think I’ve heard this simple sentence way too often in this past week and a half.

“I’m gonna get a gin and tonic.” I pointlessly tried to resist.

“No, no, first a shot.”

You can imagine that became “One more shot” quite soon and at some point I felt drinking anything else might be more dangerous than keeping on the same track. Luckily I had the good idea of ordering a pizza. By the way, the pizza here is laughable; just pointing it out. We ate an awful lot of it though, being the only food available(There were other types of food, but they were more like snacks and less like ‘I’m going to eat this so I don’t get so drunk’ food).

Two of the guys liked some girls so they asked Alex’s girlfriend to introduce them. I did not realize that. As a result I went and joined in the conversation; sorry guys. I learned a new word, “Mitoreru”, which means “to be fascinated by”. I’m glad I have a dictionary on my phone; holding conversations would be difficult otherwise. The girls were really impressed by our drinking skills. Yes, mine too, even though I made it clear I can’t keep up with my Russian friends.

A very interesting event was started by Alex’s girlfriend, Yuuki(She was from Belarus actually, but said that the translation of her name in Japanese would be Yuuki, so let’s call her that for now). For some reason, there was a stripping pole in the middle of the bar that night, so Yuuki tried to be cool and climbed it, then attempted to hold herself with only her legs. I said attempted, so I guess you know where this is going. (No? How about if I link this?) Well, anyway, she fell from 2 meters high on a glass that shattered under her and she got up perfectly fine with just a half centimeter scratch. Belarus women are tough…

Interesting fact about women in Japan. The ones that I thought were about my age; they were around 30. Basically…

Anyway, at around 4:20 we left the bar. 11 of us came in, 4 of us went out. The other people from the dorm fled pretty soon, that wasn’t really a surprise, but one of the Russians was unaccounted for. Apparently he had some adventures of his own, of which he couldn’t remember much, but still the most notable was that he went through Tanuki Koji and noticed a guy riding his bike through there. Now, something to note is that there are signs forbidding you to ride your bike through Tanuki Koji, which makes sense since it’s mostly crowded. Some Japanese guy was probably taking a shortcut through there, since it was early morning and there weren’t many people. When my Russian friend saw him, he pushed the poor man off his bike while yelling at him and pointing at the “no bikes” sign. He’s embarrassed about it today(From then on, whenever I saw some Japanese person cross the street on a red light I’d tell him to go punch them).

IMAG0419(Tanuki Koji)



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What once was is now lost

This time I will cram two days into one post since I haven’t posted anything yesterday.

Today, my classmates invited me to go to the beer gardens with them; since I had planned to visit for some time, I gladly accepted. I asked Alex, one of the guys from Russia I befriended, to come with me and we set off. We me some of my classmates at the school (Alex studied at another school) and since Alex didn’t know them the introductions started. The girl from England started her introduction with “Watashi ha igirisujin desu.” to which a friend from school asked “So that’s your name? Igirisujin?”. Using that I took to calling her Igirisu-chan from then on.

After all of us got there, we headed for the beer gardens.

I’m the guy on the right.

Having arrived I’ve met with the volunteer that I had met before when I went to eat Genghis Khan(lol). He said he posted the photos he took on his facebook account and apparently I had some fans. See, I am famous. People on facebook said so. After drinking our beers we went to another bar; an Okinawan bar, apparently. I learned to make some clicking noise with some sort of… musical instrument, I guess. That’s where the best photo of me until now and most likely from here on, was taken. (Link if you’re curious) There was a guy there singing, quite well if I might add, who was the first and last to recognize my home country by Nadia Comăneci instead of Dracula. Well, he was old enough to have seen those Olympics, unlike me.

~next day~

Tonight I went to the fireworks festival and it was simply amazing. Aoko and I met before and we went to the school together so I could get my very own yukata(She was already wearing hers; pink really suits her). I was dressed by a very pretty Japanese girl and my knees went a bit weak when she hugged me to tie my obi behind me(Interestingly enough, I don’t think that was necessary because the next time someone dressed me in a yukata they did it without hugging me. Eh, I guess I’ll never know). You could say the night started out pretty well. I thought I might need something on the road so I brought my wallet and my phone with me, but since I didn’t have any pockets, I stuffed my wallet into my obi. The fireworks lasted for about 40 minutes and it was truly amazing, like a dream, like living the life of an anime character. The cold breeze on my skin, the beautiful fireworks above, everything seemed like a scene from someone else’ life.

At least until the fireworks ended, because by then I seemed to have realized just how stupid it was to put my wallet with all my money, cards and ID in my obi. Aoko and Chou stayed with me to help me look for it, but I didn’t find it. In the end Aoko spoke to the police and gave the details about my wallet, in case somebody finds it, but I’m not very hopeful.

Since everybody else had went ahead, the three of us returned by ourselves. We parted with Aoko at the subway station, since I didn’t want her wandering around at night, so Chou and I went back to the school to change into our clothes and leave the yukata there. In front of the school Chou saw a friend of his and went to talk to him, so I just stopped to wait for him. In that moment I was assaulted by two girls with cell phones going all “ikemen” and trying to take pictures of me. I thought it was funny so I struck a pose for them(kind of like this) , which got them all excited. Maybe I’ll start charging 100 yen per picture; I might be able to eat like that.

After we got changed, Chou and I went to a bar where I was supposed to meet the Russian guys after the fireworks. After I told people what happened, they started to buy me drinks. Well, I can’t tell if it was a good or bad night…

Well, it wasn’t a bad night, but the next few days were.

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Am I famous?

Starting with this post I will have to group up diary entries as they become more and more erratic. Having overcome the initial shock of finding myself in Japan I’ve started to simply describe important events, rather than detailing every little thing I encounter. Still, I will try to arrange them in a logical order. This post describes the events of my fourth day in Sapporo.

Today I went with my classmates to eat Genghis Khan(ジンギスカン). Yeah, I dunno; it’s a popular dish in Hokkaido but I have no idea what the deal is with the Mongolian ruler. It’s one of those ‘fry your own meat’ type of foods; it’s not bad, but the meat happens to be mutton, which I’m not particularly fond of. Luckily there was some chicken meat too (Apparently…). Among the people I sat at the table with was a Japanese volunteer who’s hobby is photography, so he took a few photos of us eating. I didn’t really think that was my best moment, but I paid no mind to it. The people at the table said I looked like a famous person. Am I famous? (Little did I know I apparently look like several famous people, but that’s for another post). The food wasn’t particularly expensive, but it wasn’t really cheap either; my first encounter with the great Genghis Khan left a bad taste.

After that a few of us went to a manga/anime/game store called Mandarake. I looked really hard for anything related to Amagami, but couldn’t find anything. I suppose its charm passed in Japan. Didn’t really buy anything because everything is a bit too expensive for my tastes, but it was fun looking at the various figurines, posters, cosplay merchandise and so on. Outside of the shop there was a maid… bar? It looked like a bar, just that the bartender was dressed up as a maid. I must have looked in her direction for a while because she turned and for a moment our eyes met. Her eyes, a deep red that drew me in and before I knew it I could feel an intense and at the same time frightening boredom emanating from them. In that single moment it was like her soul had pleaded me to save her from it, to become her knight in shining armor and rescue her from the mortifying boredom in which she was drowning. I walked away.

After the anime store we went to a movie theater to see Kara no Kyoukai in 3D. That was a truly intense experience; watching one of my favorite anime in 3d at a movie theater was a special experience and I consider it one of my best decisions so far. I even got some concept art of Shiki and Kokutou as a bonus; well worth the 1500 yen.

Later that night I went out with the Russians again and they made friends with the manager of the bar who was also Russian, so we got free drinks. Completely unrelated, but I had to go home early again.

Today’s post is shorter than usual because, as I’ve said before, by this time I had stopped recording every single detail of my life, instead opting to write only about the moments that I found important at the time. My initial style does return during the last week of stay, but until then I will try to fill the gaps in my diary entries with what I remember.

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Too cool for school

I’m sorry to say that my diary entry this time is far too lacking for an entire post, so I will write what I remember, based on the little I’ve written back then instead of just quoting the diary as I normally do.

If you recall, in my last post I spoke about meeting three guys from Russia, more specifically from Siberia. Since we would be there for the same duration and for the same reasons we quickly made friends and they asked me if I knew of any place where we could go out drinking. Straight to business, huh? Well, it just so happened I had met a girl in the dorm who had asked me to go out that night so I called her and we all went out together. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but this was our first night out and a month later we would have our last in the same team. The girl had been working in Sapporo for a while, being on a working holiday visa, so she knew the places. First she took us to “Gossip Lounge” where we would return every now and again for the next month, since it was a cheap place to drink. Compared to Romania, drinking in Japan is expensive; a night out drinking is roughly three times more than it would here, so finding a cheap place was a good idea.

After drinking quite a few tequila shots and a long drink we left to find another bar. Apparently this new one, located on Tanuki Koji, was a popular bar for foreigners. I didn’t really get the charm of it, but in all honesty I don’t really get why you’d go to Japan and hang out with foreigners, so this wasn’t a place I’ve returned to very often. I drank a few more long drinks and went home early; I couldn’t keep up with Russian drinking habits. Also I had school in the morning the next day.

Waking up the next day was a bit difficult, but by the time I got to the school I felt alright. Once more I was anxious; although I still am proud of myself of just packing my bags and heading to Japan alone, until I made friends I always felt anxious. I’m glad I went alone though, because this always forced me out of my shell; it forced me to make connections that I maybe wouldn’t have made otherwise, it forced me to take initiative and do whatever needed to be done without help and most of all, it helped me understand how it feels to be alone in a foreign country.

The anxiety passed soon enough as we started our first lesson. At least after the self introductions, I hate those, I never know what I should say. Why am I studying Japanese? Deep question. I have no idea. I said it was interesting and the teacher didn’t press the issue. A guy from Korea and I were the new students that week; he said he wanted to learn Japanese because he liked Shingeki no Kyojin (a manga/anime that’s very popular now both in Japan and outside). Well, that trumped my answer, but I suppose anything would. The other students had already been there for a week already, so by the time the lessons started I felt a bit behind since I couldn’t speak very well, at least not yet. The others were two guys from Taiwan and one girl from England, which I would eventually start calling Igirisu-chan in order to tease her. In return she called me kyuuketsuki-chan(vampire; y’know, ’cause I’m from Romania and everybody is a vampire here. Fact.).

The guys were Chou and Kan; Kan liked to spend his time playing games on his phone. All his time. I haven’t checked but he might have played even while sleeping. The only time when I haven’t seen him play games on his phone was when he was busy playing games at the game arcade. Those required two hands unfortunately.

As for Chou he spoke English quite well and after we started to speak for a while we became good friends. He was really kind and helped me a lot when I was in trouble(foreshadowing!) and was just generally fun to talk to. He was also really happy to hear I have a HTC phone and an Asus laptop.

The lessons by themselves were normal textbook lessons, but this time I had people to practice speaking with. It makes a lot of difference. Since the teacher insisted that while we repeat the conversation from the books we actually express the feelings that should be expressed I had a lot of fun overdoing it. I find I learn best if I’m having fun, so I tried to make it as fun as possible.

That day I finally managed to meet with Aoko and she was kind enough to bring me an adapter, since I thought of everything except the possibility of Japan having different power outlets. Aoko is so very small; it’s not just that she’s short, everything about her is small. She seemed content, but I still liked teasing her about it every now and then.

This marks the end of my second day in Sapporo, but there are plenty more to come.

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