Archive for January, 2012

January 31, 2012

A Day in the Life of Me (Office Version)

And now, by popular demand… We are going to walk in my shoes for one day. This day shall be an office day, where I do not have any schools to visit or classes to teach. I stay in the office about 2-3 times a week, save for winter, summer, and spring vacation when I am in the office every day.

It’s winter and the permafrost has settled upon the sidewalks, so I can no longer ride my bike to work. My 10 minute commute turns into 25 minutes. But I have to say that I am doing a darn good job at walking to work in the snow. I have my long legs for walking, and snow boots and jacket for staying protected against the snow… so I can usually conquer just about anything. Actually, I end up sweating underneath my jacket if I walk at a fast pace and wear too many sweaters. Having a sweaty shirt in a frigid office is not my idea of fun!

I leave my apartment between 7:30 and 7:45 in the morning. 7:40am is a comfortable time to leave because I do not have to rush and can get there early. I have been leaving at 7:43am quite often.

Here are some shots from my morning walk…




They use bulldozers to clear the snow here, which create “awesome” rivets in the roads. Whenever I ride the bus or a car, I feel like a human maraca. IMG_0937
“Lovely” weather we’re having…

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January 13, 2012

Sound Princess

音姫 【おとひめ】 otohime (n) melody or flushing sound played by a Japanese toilet to mask excretion sounds


During a Japanese-toilet-using adventure in Tokyo, I was maneuvering my 5’10” frame around the tiny bathroom stall when I heard this noise start to sound.

What the…?

It was coming from the panel on the wall and sounded exactly like running water in electronic mono sound. This was Oto-hime, the Sound Princess of Japanese toilets. Some models actually have an image of a woman sitting and looking peaceful. All you have to do is wave your hand over the sensor and the noise will sound. At that time, I had accidentally activated the sensor.

I wondered for a moment why they would have machines in Japanese toilets that imitated the sound of flushing, but soon realized why. At first I thought it was a little silly, but then I realized that this is a legitimate fear/phobia of many self-conscious Japanese women. Another interesting aspect of Japanese toilet culture. Add this to the toilet slippers, bidets, toilet paper holders that double as tearing devices, and the fact that toilets always have their own separate mini-rooms in Japanese homes.

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January 10, 2012

Coming-of-Age (Turning 20 in Japan)

Looking back four years ago…

January 14th, 2008. It was Japan’s annual Coming-of-Age Day for everyone who had turned 20 that year. Turning 20 means you are a legal adult and are allowed to smoke, drink, and vote. The day is always on the second Monday in January and it is, surprisingly, a national holiday. No work or school! And that year, that group of young people included me!

I was actually in Japan on my 20th birthday. It was one of the most memorable birthdays of my life. My dad happened to be in Tokyo at the EXACT same time, on a business trip. I thought I was the luckiest girl in the world. We met in front of Takadanobaba station the morning of the 18th and moved me into my new digs, the Waseda International Student Dormitory. He helped me unpack and it felt a little bit like freshman year all over again, except that had been my mom who had helped me move. After getting my moving in taken care of, we went to the Meiji shrine to walk around. The Meiji shrine is my dad’s favorite place in Tokyo. Whenever I go there, I can imagine that he is with me.


DSC06541Waiting for the train at Roppongi station

We went shopping and also explored Waseda campus before I had to go to a dorm-welcoming-shindig. To this day my dad still remembers me, teary-eyed, asking him to wait for me while I met my new dorm-mates for an hour or so. I didn’t want him to leave me just yet. He was so amazing and patient with me, saying that he would take a walk while I met people. Later, I met him again and we went to an Indian restaurant on Waseda Road near my dorm and had our last dinner. After dinner I stood on the sidewalk and watched him go down Waseda Road (to the station) until I could not see him anymore. He turned around three times to wave to me and was gone. I walked back to my dorm to catch the tail-end of the welcoming shindig and thus my year in Tokyo began.

What a way to turn 20.

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January 5, 2012

Skiing: Cold But Happy

The last time I went skiing was in January 2009 with my dad when my parents were still living in Minnesota. I have to say that the weather was not that great. It was Minnesota in January, which means cold. Sunny, but cold. This was at Afton Alps in Hastings, Minnesota. It wasn’t far from where we lived in Eagan (a suburb of St. Paul). We hadn’t gotten that much snow, so the slopes were icy and there was not much powder to be seen at all. I think they had actually resorted to making snow with the snow machines. I seem to remember icicle-hands and feet, plus my frozen butt on the lift.

Nevertheless, my dad and I had a great time together. I have many many many fond memories of skiing with him in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and even New Zealand. My dad hates being cold (hates it as much as I do), but he has always been a skier. Watching him ski is amazing because he is just so darn good at it! My parents took me to Steamboat Springs in Colorado when I was proficient enough at walking and put me in ski school. It is a great skill to have, especially when you are around areas where there are a lot of winter sports.


DSC00070(2009) Too cold to smile, but we’ll do it anyway!



My dad skiing in the alps in 1986 (before I was born!)


And now we are off to Owani, where I went skiing!

…Owani again? It seems like I am spending quite a bit of time there! I love Hirosaki first and foremost, but Owani is quickly becoming my second-favorite little town.


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