So, I'll just keep it simple.
"My life in Japan so far."
My life has become great.
I've made some awesome new friends, and settled into a sort of routine. I've discovered frequent haunts in this area. I've learned quite a lot of Japanese, and can somewhat feel comfortable getting around on my own. My wardrobe has changed dramatically; I feel like I need to make a separate post about this though. I feel like Japanese life is no longer shocking to me in the least--I guess it never was really shocking, but it's becoming the new "normal".
Some new great loves I have--
Yakiniku. This might go into the category of one of my greatest loves of all time, anywhere. A little backstory: I don't eat much meat in Japan. The cafeteria does have some beef dishes and pork tonkatsu, but I'm not a fan of the latter and the beef is generally not very high grade. The chicken is also not my cup of tea. The food at the on-campus McDonald's is pretty much the same quality as in America, but since I'm not much of a fan of McD's anyway, I very rarely eat it. So seafood or no meat at all it is, most days.
But then I discovered yakiniku.
Yakiniku literally means "grilled meat" (if you didn't read the Wiki link), and that's pretty much all you do. I've been to a yakiniku restaurant at Hirakata station twice now (it's a blossoming love, I guess), and the general procedure is as follows. The meat is all-you-can-eat; you pick one of three "sets", which range in price based on the quality and types of meat in each set. I've only ever gotten the least expensive, which comes to about $22 US per person. There are a variety of different cuts of beef, as well as pork, chicken, vegetables, and I think some seafood in the first set. Each set also has a variety of non-grillable sides like kimchi (which I am fond of), potato salad, rice, miso soup, lettuce (to make lettuce wraps), etc.
Basically, you order whatever you want within your set, and as much as you want, and they bring out little platters of the sliced meat or vegetables raw and you grill it yourself at a small, circular grill in the center of the table, before dipping it in one of several sauces and reveling in the yakiniku goodness. Part of the fun for me is the new, er, parts of the cow that I've tried (and enjoyed!). At the place I've been to, they start you out with these very thinly sliced, seasoned cuts of beef, which turned out to be tongue. Besides the standard steaks and beef strips, other notable cuts were stomach lining and intestine, which are chewy, yet surprisingly very flavorful. At first, you can't help but feel like you're eating a big hunk of gristle, but when you get over it and realize that the fat can actually add a lot of flavor, it's pretty good. I actually am quite a fan of cow stomach now. (At least the way that it's prepared at yakiniku). I would highly recommend this dining experience to anyone at anytime (unless they're a vegetarian or something unfortunate.) There's nothing quite like gorging oneself on so much protein that you can barely walk comfortably afterwards, after living on wimpy rice and seaweed and various sea fare for so long. I think I seriously crave yakiniku every night of the week. I'm craving it right now, and I just had it last night.
I love hookah. I never went to a hookah bar or smoked it otherwise in the States, but thanks to the very conveniently close Cafe Istanbul and it's smoking and drinking specials, my friends and I have gotten really into it. It's funny, that a large group of these exchange students studying in Japan have found a local hangout in a Turkish-themed cafe smoking a traditional Middle Eastern flavored tabac pipe, but I guess that's just how it goes. I've even learned to blow smoke rings. I'm pretty much a sheesha pro. I'd love to buy one for myself when I get back to the states--it's relaxing, and not as potent (or smoked as often) as cigarettes, and tastes much better. And I still need to fulfill my declared personal dream of blowing a ship just like Gandalf does in Lord of the Rings. It's going to happen someday, people.
I love false eyelashes. And yes, I know. The thing is, it's an accessory that isn't quite appropriate to wear in public in the United States, but is pretty much commonplace amongst girls here. I know that the Japanese obsession with makeup and fashion is somewhat of a point of argument amongst Western observers--but I can't help but just love it. Finally, I can have eyelashes! My real ones are so wimpy and short and feeble, I've always envied those with long, full lashes. It's something that I don't really think I could get away with when I get back home, so I feel like I just need to do what I want and wear what I want while here. Some kids here spend their money on manga and figures and games. I like eyelashes.
Yakiniku only has one rival as far as new loves for food goes--and that is curry. I don't mean the Japanese curry crap they sell with rice in the cafeteria. I'm talking the real deal at one of the two Indian restaurants conveniently placed directly across the street from campus, complete with naan bread and a mango lasse to finish. Chicken curry is my favorite, especially made with squash that they sometimes have for the curry of the day--this post is seriously making me hungry. At least this is something that I could probably acquire pretty easily back in the states. My friends and I have become regulars at New Dehli, and thankfully it's cheap (700 yen for a GIANT set including soup, salad, a small spiced chicken dish, curry with the biggest piece of naan bread ever, and a mango lasse and ice cream at the end. Thankfully they have doggie bags.)
I would write about more loves, but it's getting late and I still have homework to do. And it's Kansai Gaidai festival this week! Which pretty much just means a ton of stands selling various foods (90% of which seem to be either takoyaki, yakisoba, some variation of hot dogs, or udon, curiously) are set up around campus, and the different clubs hold events throughout the days. It goes from today (Thursday) through Saturday, and is mainly just for the Japanese students to participate in (there's a separate International Festival coming up for the exchange students.) But anyone can certainly walk around and enjoy the food and all that, so that's just what I did today. It was fun!
Actually, I'm sort of technically "participating" in one of the events on Saturday, the beauty contest. They have 10 girls who are the actual finalists for the show already picked out to walk during the event, but because this year's theme is based on the popular idol group AKB48, they gathered 48 pictures of girls around KGU's campus to show in a slideshow (from what I understand) during the event. My homevisit partner's friend is on the judging committee and asked to take my photo, so that's how I got roped into that (it's that "brondy girl" power, I swear.). Though from what I understand, I don't actually have to be there since they're just showing my picture, so I'm probably going to end up going on a field trip to listen to a Buddhist monk that day instead.
So, anyway, I need to get started on my homework so that I can get up and not be late for class tomorrow (as I was today--that yakiniku wears your body out to digest, is my excuse.) I really want to make a post about Japanese fashion soon, so expect that! (and I promise that I WILL UPDATE MORE!!!!)