Pregnant Fish and a Mountain of Memories

I ate a pregnant fish today.

It was actually quite tasty.  My friend, Kaori, gave me one, and I was hesitant because it was a full fish, from head to fin, but once I got over the fact that I was, in fact, chewing on a head, I noticed the pleasant taste.  I wonder what this kind of fish looks like when it isn’t pregnant, because its entire body was stuffed with eggs, and aside from a thin layer of skin holding it all in there wasn’t much fish in there.  I wonder where all its organs go?

But anyway, instead of studying I am going to try to catch up to myself with a big ‘ol picture dump.
I made some new years resolutions, but I’ve been realizing that I don’t truly care about them.  What I do care about is this blog.  So I’m changing my resolution, 2 weeks into the year, to paying more attention to my blog.

But without further ado, the other exciting things I do, aside from eating pregnant fish!
Let me just dig through this mountain of photos and figure out where to begin.

Oh!  Here we go!  These were laying way down toward the bottom, about three months ago.  I went to Ueno with my Ramune to Anime class at the beginning of October, primarily because I needed a place to write about for my essay, but also because Ueno Park is a place that dates back a very long time.  I don’t really feel like getting into the history of it now, though, because this mountain of photos is glaring at me to get a move-on.

The Kuromon, or Black Gate.  Historically this is where the Battle of Ueno (it’s important, look it up) was fought, but I’m pretty sure it was rebuilt and relocated here.  I’m sure this isn’t the original one.

Once Ueno Hill became Ueno Park it got all kinds of nifty features, like sculptures and statues!

It also got a kiddieland.  Only in Japan would you find a giant Pikachu and a marry-go-round in a historical park.  There’s also a famous zoo here, but we didn’t go there.

One of the main shrines.  I forget which one.

Stone lanterns.  Quite old.

The reconstructed original main temple of Ueno.  It was inaccessable for us, I think.

What remains of the daibutsu in Ueno.  A daibutsu, if you don’t remember from the one I visited in Kamakura, is a giant Buddha statue.  That girl is someone from my class that I didn’t bother to cut out of the photo.

Another important shrine.

Shrines hang red bibs on all their statues to grant happiness and protection to children.

There was a hidden area in the shrine with a hidden miniature shrine.  We were learning to explore the nooks and crannies of Tokyo because there is all kinds of history that people overlook every day.

The hidden shrine.  I liked the rock formation.

The shrine of Literature.  Unfortunately, it was closed.  As was most of Ueno Park (under construction when we were there).

A temple named and modeled after a temple in Kyoto, to maintain a link to the old capital (Kyoto) when Edo (today’s Tokyo) became the new capital.  The temple it is modeled after was one of my favorite sites when I was in Kyoto.

A shrine to honor those who fought in the Battle of Ueno.

The guy who led an army in the Battle of Ueno.  I wrote my essay on him, but I honestly forget most of the information.  However, they depicted him in commoner’s clothing, with his favorite dog, to allow him to be remembered as a good man, rather than the man who couldn’t make up his mind about who to root for and where to lead his army.

Outside the main area of the park there were miniature shrines to all kinds of random things.  This one is a shrine to glasses.

Their lake had enough carp to lead an army of carp.

And a flea market!

Hmm… let’s see what else is in here… Well, here’s a picture of me and some of my dorm mates at the Canada House Ball on October 21st.  Not really important, but it looks cool, and I feel like I stand out in it pretty well.  The Canada House ball is a party put on by one of the dorms.  Every dorm has one, and Global House’s is coming up.  I’ll talk about that at the end of this post, though).

What’s next?  Oooh!  I had forgotten about this!  These are pictures from the ICU festival, October 29th and 30th.  It was a weekend of food tasting, performance watching, experience having, and fun times.

I don’t even know why they had this, but they did.

I was overwhelmed by how much food there was.  It smelled amazing.  By the way, I did not take pictures of everything I ate, so you will get a feel for how much I ate in just two days.

Very excited for boba!

Flavored pancake type balls.  I got the earl grey ones.  Wow, they were good.

Fun signs.

My earl grey balls and some donuts.  I don’t know what these donuts are specifically but they have a super airy but cakey feel to them, and they are downright amazing.

Yep… toast with butter and sprinkles, or chocolate.  No, I did not spend my money on this.

But I did spend my money on this!  Fried mochi!  If this were all Japan contributed to the world, it would be worth it.  You can get this most places, but I love it anyway.

We watched Becci (in the green with the curly hair) dance the traditional fisherman’s dance.  It’s really visually pleasing to see a large group of people do it, and something about the song is incredibly enjoyable, too.   You’d have to see it to understand, but I really did enjoy it.

Not even half of the whole festival.

More fun signs.

Takiyaki.  It’s kind of like a quesadilla, except the tortilla is thick and a bit sweet and it’s more of a pouch.  This one had cheese in it, but I also got one with the obligatory sweet red bean paste in it.

Yakiniku.  Japanese BBQ.  There are not words to describe the delicious that yakiniku contains.  I spent more money than I will admit on these.  I am speechless and drooling.

This isn’t anything, really.  They just bought everything sweet that they could think of and shoved it all into a cup.  But it was good.
There was a taiko drums performance.  You really have to have strong arms to do this.  I don’t think I would be able to.

Oh, and behind her they were demonstrating judo, which, no offense to people involved in it, is the most useless martial art ever.

There was also a metal band that had an interesting image.  Do you recognize the big sign behind them?

More food.  My unit mate, Saori, was making these.  They are like vegetable crepes with soy sauce.

And…. drum roll please!
I got to dress up in a real kimono!

Then on November 2nd I went to see Steve Aoki at the biggest club in Tokyo, called Ageha.  I like Aoki quite a lot, but I would have to say that the club itself was as amazing as he was.  There were rooms upon rooms with DJs all over the place, multiple bars, inside and out, a pool area, an outside sitting/drinking area, separate tents, and even an area that they turn into a beach when it’s hot out.  I felt like I was in some kind of hollywood movie or at a major movie star/musician’s personal party.  The main stage where Aoki played was insane.  There was a ground “pit” area, an upper “balcony” area, and these huge robotic fog machines (the red things in the middle picture) that could move all over the place and blasted down fog so thick you could barely breathe underneath it.  And the best part?  I met Aoki.  He casually wandered out to the sitting/standing area and said hi to everyone.

As you know, I went to volunteer shortly after that, on November 25th, and then started the Winter quarter at school.  I’ve been staying relatively busy with school work and daily life, but Winter break just happened, and aside from sleeping a lot and sleeping some more, the main things I did were around the New Year.  New Year’s Eve I went clubbing in Roppongi, which is a major rich clubbing area, and one of the clubs I went into (called Twenty-Four/Seven) had the funniest thing written on their wall.
Then a few days after the new year I visited Meiji Shrine, which is one of the biggest and most popular shrines in Tokyo.  Several million people visit it between January 1st and 3rd every year, so I had to check it out.

Keep your eye on the second furthest sign you see hanging above this crowd.

This picture was taken at that second sign.  Now keep your eye on the second furthest tori gate (a tori gate is that typical style archway with the top part jutting out longer than the space between the two support beams).

This picture was taken at that second tori gate.  Do you see the progression in how dark it got?  It took us a while to get in there.

This picture looks light because they had blinding beams shining on this area.  This is where you throw in money and pray.  The way to pray at a shrine is to toss in your coin, clap three times, and then pray with your hands pressed together.

I got a fortune.  The only thing I know it says is wisdom.  So I guess I will be very wise in this upcoming year.

One other notable thing (that I have pictures of) that I did over break was go to a maid cafe.  But Mariko has those pictures and will give them to me tomorrow, so I will talk about that on a separate post.
Since the new year has started I started school back up.  I’ve been working on staying on track and have recently acquired new responsibilities.
I ran for Tsuru Daijin, which is a position on my dorm committee that puts me in charge of our common lounge.  I got the position, so I am now in charge of keeping the area clean, organizing events, and other miscellaneous things.
In addition to this, I am working on organizing Global House’s ball.  It will be held next Friday, the 20th, so some of us are working our butts off to put it together.
Not many people have done much yet, but I created the flyer (all by myself, I might add, and I am quite proud) and I’m organizing to start handing them out tomorrow (the printers delivered them today, yay!).  But we’re all college students, so we know how to work well under pressure after procrastinating to insane degrees.

This is the flyer I made.

And that concludes the mountain of memories I had piled up to share with you.  Maybe I did the starting fresh for the new year thing a little late, but hey, I did it!
I’ve been growing a lot as a person, and as corny as it may sound, I can honestly say that at the six month mark I have learned more than I thought I would.  My Japanese may never be as good as I want it to be, but I have other strong points that I never knew I had.  Leadership skills, for example.  This is new territory for me, but then again, so is Japan.  I’m exploring a lot both externally and internally, and I’m happy to say that I’ve made it successfully and happily to my halfway point.  I have gone through times of hating Japan, and though I can not say I have forgotten all I hated, I can say I think I’ve finally moved past it and am learning to accept Japan as being an intriguing place full of people who are just as flawed yet just as enjoyable as people from any other part of the world.  I miss my home, and I’m glad to be halfway to my return, but I do know that I will be sad to see Japan go.
So, with the new year, a fresh slate, and a growing mind, the corniness ends here and I set off to make the most of my final six months of Alysse Abroad.
(Doesn’t that sound a bit like the intro to a Pokemon episode?)