The year abroad adventures of a Scottish otaku in the North of Japan

Monthly Archives: June 2014

I’ve been in a thoughtful mood over the weekend, mainly prompted by my impending return to the UK and also by the watching of RENT…
The question posed in this is song is – ‘How do you measure a year?’ so I guess mine would be ‘How can I measure my year abroad?’
In days? So far: 310
In ramen eaten? So far: quite a lot….
In thunderstorms? 14
In the number of times I’ve been stared at on public transport? 7,000,000
In the number of new meals I’ve learned how to cook? 8
In Kanji learnt? several hundred In Kanji not learnt? several thousand
In times I’ve been thankful for my friends being here too? oh, so many
In the letters I’ve recieved from my Grandparents? about 24
In care packages from home? 6

I guess it all comes down to perspective, but what I do know is – by the time this is over, I will be able to count it in memories.


Helloooo! It’s been too long…

It’s certainly been an interesting few weeks!

At the beginning of the month, as part of my Intercultural Class, I got to visit a Primary School in Akita city. We had lunch with one of the classes, then split up to play ‘English games’, tell them about our country’s own Primary Schools (in Japanese) and play with them at lunch time. I had a fab time meeting some of the cute Year 1s, teaching them some really simple English and surprising them with my Japanese!

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ushijima primary school

The unexpected part of the trip was, that on our way into the city (while going through a nearby town) we drove past a bear on the side of the road. It was only about the size of a Saint Bernard Dog, but it was still pretty cool. It was also my first time of seeing a bear like this in the wild!

The weekend after this, I had the opportunity to go to see a Kabuki play (something I have been wanting to do while I’m in Japan). Kabuki is a traditional Japanese play form where the actors (all male) wear elaborate make up and costumes. The plays are often traditional stories and can last for hours because of lengthy set changes. Feminine looking males are prized by the trade because they can play the female characters well. Obviously we weren’t allowed to take photos during the play, this is the poster.

There were 3 plays in total, the first one being two beautiful dances by a wife and a concubine. This one was my favourite, because they were so elegant and feminine (despite both actors being male).

The second play was just a line of people introducing themselves in very lengthy keigo speeches. They were really hard to follow…the only good bit about that one was that one person just lost in and started laughing. It caused a domino effect of the giggles – all the actors had bowed heads, so all you saw was the shoulders going up and down, and then an apologetic bow! The audience loved it.

The final play was the story of a village idiot who wanted to be a sumo wrestler. He was helped out by a prostitute who was drunk, and thought he was funny. 10 years later, he has become a mob boss, and so repays the prostitute and her family(who doesn’t remember who he is until the very end). It ends in typical Japanese style, with the main character regretting that he could not become a sumo wrestler like a promised. It was this play which I understood the most. We were given summaries in English, but the rest of the play was guess work!

During the scene changes, a beautiful curtain was pulled across the stage:

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Lastly, this weekend we revisited the lovely peninsula Oga – where we had a trip to in October. The, rather early, morning took us first to Oga Aquarium where we could see seals, penguins and a polar bear. The funniest part of it happened while I was standing next to an octopus tank – a Japanese couple looked at it and though it looked, and I quote, ‘tasty’…

I also got to see a cute seal, just chilling in his pool, and looking remarkably like me when I go swimming!

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(casual seal selfie)

After this, we went to Cape Nyudozaki (which lies on the 40th Parallel) to have our lunch. I may have done a bit of rock climbing, taken more time than I should, and then run back up the cliff barefoot so that I didn’t miss the bus! Scraped up my legs a bit, but it was pretty good fun!

Next was the return to the Namahage museum (where we went to see the Namahage Sedo Matsuri) to watch a short Namahage performance – it was fun seeing my friends, who didn’t know about Namahage, get scared when they jumped out!

The museum itself takes all of about 5 minutes to walk through, so the hour a half we had there, was mostly spent eating ice-cream out in the sun!

Finally, we headed up the Mount Kanpu (another revisit). This time, the weather was a lot less windy and a lot more sunny! There were loads of paragliders jumping off the top of the mountain, and beautiful scenery everywhere!

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That’s me pretty much up to date for now. It’s slowly becoming more obvious that my year abroad is coming towards its conclusion. Last week I had my ‘End of Semester Orientation’ meeting, letting us know what we have to do before we leave. All quite sad, really!

Well, until next time またね!


I’m back, I’m still here 🙂

The weather’s heating up, the humidity’s rising (I feel like I’m getting into a weather girls song) and the scenery is changing once again. The Sakura has given way to green trees and life is starting to return. I swear, this is why I prefer Spring. It’s been at least 25 degrees for the last two weeks, my apartment is humid as anything and I can’t cope – I’m Scottish. I mean, I’m thankful for the blue skies, and nice days, but the temperature is only going to keep going up. Although, one good thing about these hot days is that it gives you the excuse to enjoy nice cold melon – so yummy! Still, the rainy season’s gonna be upon us soon, so at heavy rain and thunderstorms will be the order of the month. Seriously, a month.

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On the bright side, if you’ll excuse the pun, the changing scenery and weather means that, over the last few weeks, the rice fields have all been flooded and starting to be planted. I think it looks so beautiful (even if it does seem like the entire place looks a bit flooded). Another thing that the rice fields brings out is the frogs – thousands of them! Every evening, all you can hear for miles around is frogs making an utter racket…

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However, all this changing scenery and whatnot is also reminding me of just how little time I have left here – just over 2 months! My flight home is August 11th. My time spent here seems to have passed so quickly and I know that the last little bit will pass just as fast! I also have to start thinking about what I’m bringing back with me and what stays here. Luckily, Japan has this wonderful little choice in their post-office. If you want to send just printed material (in my case that’s mainly books), you can send it really cheaply!

http://www.post.japanpost.jp/int/service/s_printed_matter.html (Japanese)

http://www.post.japanpost.jp/int/service/s_printed_matter_en.html (English)

If you want to send a box to the UK, you can post up to 20kg, and if that’s by surface mail (1-3 months) it only comes to 9000 yen. It does mean you have to carry it all the way to a certain post office, but it’s certainly worth not having to pay the excess luggage fees! I don’t know what the tax is like on the other side, but at the moment it looks like a good deal!

Well, advertising over.

Not much else going on here, I’m afraid…classes are just over half way done. Next weekend I’m going to a Kabuki play, so I guess the next post will be about that! So, until then またね!



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