I am sorry that I have been quiet for quite some time, but I have been extremely busy (and I still am). Right now, I am in Yonezawa; a place north of Tokyo, in the countryside. The last week has been crazy. It was so much fun, but I am extremely exhausted now! For the first time in a week, I now have one evening where I am not going out to dinner or drinking with other people (飲み会). Therefore, I thought I would take this opportunity to get a post written on my blog, and I decided to write about the last week.
Monday last week, my supervisor and boss from Denmark came to visit Japan. Monday afternoon, they were visiting the university I am currently staying at, and giving a few presentations. After their presentations, the second year master students gave poster presentations in the laboratory next to the experimental equipment they use. I knew that the students are fairly insecure in English and that this job would definitely make them nervous, so I suggested that they could give a test presentation for me and then I’d ask some questions to them in English. In the end, they all ended up taking me up on this offer, so my time from morning and until 2:30PM was spent with practice poster presentations. I was really happy that they accepted my help, as they so far rarely comes and ask me for my help with English. And I think their poster presentations went well, and at the same time was good practice for them. In addition, I learned a lot about each of their projects.
As this is Japan, and Japanese custom is to take visitors out for dinner, we went out in the evening to a yakitori restaurant – which turned out to only have beef and pork. That was a bit misleading, since “yakitori” traditionally is only chicken parts, but the food was really good. As another part of Japanese custom, we got plenty of beer and sake along with the food. At the restaurant, we were a total of 7 people including the professors, an employee at Hitachi, and two PhD students (one of which was me). I hadn’t particularly planned to stay out late this day, but after dinner me, the Japanese professor, and the other PhD student ended up going to a beer bar. The professor left after maybe an hour, but we ended up calling the lab to see if anyone was still there. In the end, two of the first master students joined us, and it got pretty late. After the first Izakaya we decided to go to Shinjuku ni-chome. This place is known for a large number of gay bars, and many of the bars require that you have been there once before in order to get in (that means that you need to go there with someone else who’s been there before). Luckily for us, one of the guys went there for fun with his friend in the weekend, so we were able to get in as well. It was so much fun!!! The mood in there was completely different from what I’ve tried so far. Later that evening, they found out that it was my birthday the upcoming Wednesday, and in the end I got birthday song and everything (using karaoke). I was home around 4AM, and had to go to a meeting at another university the next day, so I didn’t get that much sleep.
The next day, Tuesday, I think I got up around 9 or 10AM, and went to meet my Danish professors near Akihabara. We had a meeting/workshop in an office building near Akihabara station, and there were a total of 4 presentations. It was a bit tough for me to focus on listening being slightly hungover and a bit tired, but I managed! When coming here, I did not know that they also planned taking us out for dinner in the evening… I should have known though – we are in Japan after all!! So this was another night of a lot of beer and sake, and this day also Japanese Shochu (焼酎). This is a high alcohol percent drink which, to my experience, does not taste good. But somehow I ended up drinking it anyway. In Japan, you really cannot empty your glass at all, since someone always keeps pouring to make sure you don’t dry out. ^^ It was a lot of fun, and because of that I ended up staying later than planned again, but the next day was a full day seminar and also my birthday.
So the following day was Wednesday, my birthday. There was a full day seminar in the laboratory I am staying in, where the 4th year bachelor students had presentations (in Japanese). I was not particularly hungover this day, but I was quite tired during all the presentations… I did not fall asleep though!! In the evening, there was a drinking party (飲み会), which is common to have after this type of seminar event in the lab. What I didn’t know, though, was that they had planned a bit of surprise party for me (it was my birthday), coming in with birthday cake and some sort of thing to put on my head saying “omedetou” (おめでとう= congratulations).
The cake even had my name written in Katakana (クリスティーン).
It was a bit weird to celebrate my birthday away from home and without my family, but it was a really nice birthday present, and I was really happy! The rest of that night included sushi with the professor, Japanese style drinking games with the students, and finally karaoke until 5AM. I ended up singing a lot of Japanese and English songs (can’t say it sounded good, but it was fun). ^^
I only slept 3 hours the following night, since Thursday we had a meeting at Hitachi in the Ibaraki prefecture. That meant that we had to meet at Tokyo station at 10AM, and take the train (the trip takes around 2 hours). I was a bit tired, but I think I managed surprisingly well during this day. I didn’t even fall asleep in the train on the way there. I was a bit tired during the presentations, but it was okay. After presentations and a factory tour, we went out to dinner with some of the guys from Hitachi. Of course this day, again, there was alcohol on the menu. This time, however, I stuck to beer.
At around maybe 8 or 9PM, we went back to the station to return to Tokyo, and in the end I was home around 11:30PM. I slept for 10 hours that night, and went a bit later to the university the next day (I think that was for the best). ^^
Friday was supposed to be a relaxing day for me, but I had a meeting with my supervisor for 3-4 hours in my office, and after that we went out to eat sushi in Shinjuku. We went back straight away after eating, though, so I was able to rest a bit that evening. That was also important, because the next day, Saturday, we were leaving for Yonezawa. In addition, we had decided to meet up at 10AM in Akihabara, to buy some gifts for my supervisor’s daughter. After around an hour of shopping, we had what we needed, and headed for Tokyo station. From there, we took Shinkansen and went to Yonezawa. It was a pretty nice trip of 2 hours, and the final part of the trip was through the mountains which were filled with fall colours. When we arrived, we were picked up by my supervisor’s friend from school, and in the evening we were served dinner in his home with his wife’s home cooked “oden”. It was fun to try to have dinner with a Japanese family.
That brings us to today; Sunday! Today we went sightseeing in Yamagata. More specifically, we went to Yamadera, a temple placed in the mountains. It was quite a climb, but the view was really pretty, and the fall coloured trees really made the place so much more beautiful. In addition we were lucky with the weather.
Afterwards, we went to Yamagata city and ate Soba.
I am usually not a fan of cold noodles (below picture), but decided to try it anyway. And it was actually really good!!
So lately, I have been quite busy, but I experienced so many interesting things, and it was definitely worth the additional energy! It seems like I will be a bit busy next week as well, but not to the same extend. For now, that was what I had to say!