Friday, December 7, 2012

Start of the Holiday Season

Sure enough, as soon as Halloween was over, every store in the area already had Christmas goods and lights out. I'm quite surprised sometimes, that for a country that has only about a 2% Christian population, that Christmas would be such a big deal. Of course, here in Japan it is mostly a commercial holiday for couples and friends to eat fried chicken and overly decorated cakes, and New Years is when you go spend time with your family and pray at a temple... almost the reverse of the United States. The important thing for me, though, is that virtually all holidays, whether the meaning is the same or not, have A LOT of food.

This so far has been a time of food! My campus festival was really quite a nice way to end the month, but since the comedians and musicians there were performing in Japanese (imagine that) I'm afraid the entertainment value was lost on me. Mostly the festival was tents of campus clubs selling food to raise money for their organizations. There were also a few games, and some other activities for students to participate in, but mostly just junk food to stuff your face with. I came with my one of my friends on the last day of the festival and we managed to eat cake, crepes, gyoza, icecream, and drink coffee and tea in about a span of three hours. It was a lot, but you have to indulge yourself every once and again.

The following weekend I went out again with my good friends Kayoung and Haejoo (Foodies like me) and we had a delicious meal of Korean style barbeque. This was sort of my Thanksgiving dinner, and it was quite tasty! Afterwards, we went for coffee and cookies and talked about plans for our upcoming Christmas party.

During that week, there was also an International Student Party for the Engineering Departments on Ito Campus. Kayoung said it was a good place to meet people, and that the organization in charge always orders a lot of delicious food as well. The party was a lot of fun, though the turn-out was much poorer than expected. I think this was partly because the weather had become so bitterly cold, so not as many students were willing to venture out at night to go to a 2 hour event. Plus, due to some scheduling conflicts, they moved the date of the party to the first week of December, which is midterms for students. Because of this, there was a surplus of food and drinks, so the staff in charge asked the students to please take the food with them or it would be thrown away. I found it quite humorous that the first thing the native Japanese students took was all the alcohol off the beverage table. While I didn't take any food or drink with me from this event, I was able to meet some new people, and I got to see a new instrument being played which I have never seen before. It's an Indonesian instrument made from bamboo reeds... I was told the name, but I have no clue how to spell it. If someone knows what it is called from the photo, please tell me.

As far as school I got through my first section of Japanese language courses, so I'll be upgrading to the next class level soon. Mostly it's just review for me now, but it's good to remember the vocabulary and proper grammar for the language. I often asked my Japanese laboratory members for answers to Japanese questions, but they usually don't know. It's difficult for a native speaker to know the rudimentary basics of something they inherently learned as a child... so it's easier to learn from other foreign students than the native speakers.

In relation to my scientific experiments, I have started learning the basics of cell culture and media preparation here in my lab. It's almost the same as back at Vanderbilt, but of course the technique and recipes are different... also since there's 20 people trying to use the two fume hoods in the laboratory so it's difficult to coordinate with the other students. I feel guilty having to rely on the other people in my lab project group to constantly guide me (especially since they try really hard to teach me in English) , but I think it will be like this for the first few months until I become acquainted with my labs protocols. Right now, even though I am a Master-level student, the undergrads are more knowledgeable than me. Alas, the language barrier prevents me from doing much more! I will have to study hard in Japanese class.

December so far will prove to be a food-frenzy of holiday activity! I will be going out with my friends to Tenjin and Hakata to see the beautiful Christmas Lights (they call them illuminations here, since they are technically not just for Christmas) and to go an all you can eat sushi/sashimi bar ( it's also oyster season too!). We will also have a Christmas party, and then an end of the year party to celebrate many of the lab students' graduation. After that, I am going to go to Kagoshima and Kumamoto to visit my relatives for the New Years. It will be quite a month, indeed!


  1. that indonesia's instrument is called angklung..
    indonesia also have kulintang and gamelan..
    just googling its to know more

    nice to have known ur blog jane

  2. Hey you got to hang with Wild Tiger, cool!