June 19-25

June 19

This was our last full day at Shonan Village. After breakfast, there were several talks related to scientific research in Japan. They were designed to inform us about the main differences in conducting research in an Eastern Culture vs. a Western Culture. Pretty eye opening.

In the afternoon we had our last Japanese language class, which lasted about 4 hours, and at the end of which was an exam. I did pretty well, but I wish that I had studied Japanese before coming over here. From the pronunciation to the 3 forms of characters, it seems to be a difficult language to learn.

Later in the evening many of us hit the beer vending machines and then gathered in the lobby to talk about our home-stays and future plans for the summer. It will be much more interesting to compare stories when we meet again at the end.


June 20

At 9:00 am we left Shonan Village for our research institutes. JSPS provided buses going to the Tôkyô-eki (Tokyo train station) and the Haneda-kûkô (Haneda airport). I went to the kûkô along with Alex and Emilie who were also heading to Hokkaido University. There were no problems at the airport, as I (again) had someone (Alex) that was on my flight. The buddy system is awesome. Oh, there was one problem, Alex forgot to check his Swiss army knife and had it in his backpack. Instead of throwing it away, the security team actually took down his info, gave him a receipt, and he picked it up upon arrival in New Chitose Airport near Sapporo. I am not sure if they do that in the States, but it was an interesting approach.

I arrived at New Chitose Airport in the afternoon and was picked up by Hasegawa-san and Watanabe-san. (Alex met his host researcher at the train station and Emilie, who arrived at roughly the same time, went with him . . . again, the buddy system people, its awesome). From the airport it was about 1.5 hours to Sapporo where Hokkaido University is based. Upon arrival to HU, I went first to the Field Science Center building to fill out paperwork regarding my housing here in the city. Next we went to my apartment, which is in an International Student Housing Building located about 30 minutes from the main part of campus (which includes the Field Science Center). I will share this accommodation with Alex, of whom I will probably talk much about in later posts.

After about 2 hours of getting situated in my new place, Hasegawa-san picked me up and we went to dinner at a restaurant specializing in sashimi (raw fish). Of course, I was a bit frightened by this idea, but I sucked it up and went along. And wouldn’t you know it, I actually like raw fish better than cooked fish. I had salmon, tuna, sea bream, squid, and octopus. All were pretty good. They also brought out some Yakitori (grilled-chicken on a skewer) and some furaido chikin (you can guess that one), which were both good. But as the night rolled on, I realized that an alternative reason they wanted to take me out was to get me drunk on sake (nihonshu) and bîru. Unfortunately . . . after 3 beers and 2 little containers of sake, I was just getting started, and they wanted to go back home (as it was a weeknight). So, of course, I went back to the pad and drank a few more with Alex as we discussed our sweet accommodations.

Pictures of our apartment



June 21.

I got up very early to ensure that I would not arrive late to the lab, but that didn’t work out so well. First, we were having some problems getting our hot water to work (couldn’t read the instructions). After that was taken care of, I left the apartment around 8:15 only to get extremely lost coming out of the subway station. The silly thing is that all the streets in Hokkaido run north-south or east-west. I think the not being able to read the the language thing, especially kanji (shortened words of which there are about 3000 different characters), might be bad. After that experience, however, I did learn the Kanji characters for the ordinal directions.

When I got to the lab Hasegawa-san was already waiting for me. The goals of the day were to pick up a bicycle and a cell phone. So we first went to the student co-op, where I purchased a used bike for about $55 US. Of course, this was the absolute cheapest bicycle on the lot (that I could fit on, anyway), and for an extra $10 bucks Alex got one with a sweet bell and more than one gear. Oh well, that’s $10 more dollars that I can spend on presents for all of you.

Next, we went to two mobile phone stores (and back to the lab in between so I could get the correct paperwork) to try to purchase a pay-as-you-go phone. Luckily Hasegawa-san was with me because neither of the salespeople could speak English (and of course I suck at speaking Japanese). I finally got my keitai-denwa (cell phone) in the afternoon.

The main reason I got the phone was for emergencies; therefore, I only bought about 30 minutes of international time. Incoming calls, on the other hand, are free. So I can e-mail you my ketai denwa-bango (cell number) if you can get your hands on a cheap calling card. Other than that I also have a Skype account that is set for voice-mail. I will send that number out over e-mail. I will probably use Skype to contact most of you (however, Hasegawa-san mentioned to not use it a lot during working hours, so the talk time may be limited).

After the cell phone fiasco, Hasegawa-san and I met up with some other labmates to eat lunch at the cafeteria located in the agricultural building’s basement. Sweet deals. I got a large bowl of miso soup and a small bowl of rice for roughly $1.30 US.

When lunch is over in our lab, I guess it is a tradition to go to the upstairs lounge to have coffee. So we made coffee in the Field Science lounge where I met many more people. What a whirlwind. I already stink at remembering names, and throwing foreign names into the mix crushes me. I have since bought a pocket notebook; where I have people write their names and e-mail addresses. Hopefully this will work.

I left the lab relatively early that evening to go with Alex to the supermarket (suupaa) called Daichii. The place is crazy. First of all, they have a sweet theme song playing on loop. No idea what they are saying except in the middle somewhere they say “Daichii, DAIIIIIIIIICHI”. It’s so appropriate. The other strange thing about shopping is that I have no idea what I am buying. Most things that I buy are based on the picture or flashy, shiny, or humorous packaging. I am a Japanese marketing advertiser’s dream customer: I seriously bought some kind of fruit drink because on the package it had this devious squirrel that was about to throw a nut at something. Oh, and the other things that I can distinguish in DAIIIIIIICHI are sales bins. I have a week’s worth of ‘Cup O Noodles’ that cost me about $5 US.

June 22

This was probably my best day yet in Japan. I got up very early, put on some grubby clothes, and then took off on my bike toward the lab. Waiting for me there was a group of my labmates that was going to play in the Annual Softball Tournament put on by the Agricultural School. Of course, Hasegawa-san had asked me to play when he picked me up from the airport on Tuesday (one of the first things he mentioned actually), so I gleefully accepted.

I have to say, no offense to you Americans, but if I got a bunch of graduate students back home (boys and girls) to play a softball tournament, the score of a 5-inning game would be something like 20-15 due to errors and all around bad plays. Here, we were lucky to score 6 runs, and we were crushing this team. Everyone played outstanding defense and knew exactly what to do in every situation (except for the one instance when I fielded a slow grounder to first and the second baseman forgot to cover the bag). I was pretty impressed. As for my performance, terrible. My fielding was sweet as ever, but my years of swinging a golf club have led me astray. I had something like 5 infield pop outs in 8 at bats. Eggghhhhh. No Cecil Fielder this day (except for the sweet glove at first). There are some hilarious pictures of the event though, and I will share them below. My favorite experience of the day was when my team and Alex’s team tied, we did a best-to-five paper/rock/scissors tourney in which everyone was jumping and screaming after every go-round. My team won in crushing force: 5-1 (with the only winner on their side being Alex). Oh and of course I crushed my opponent. Once we won the roshambo-off, we were supposed to be playing in either the semifinals or the final game (no idea what was actually taking place in any conversation regarding the tournament . . . actually, I don’t even know if it was a tournament?) In any case, the rest of the games got rained out and I was bummed.

Pictures from the softball tourney

Next, Alex and I went to dinner and then decided to go watch the US play Ghana in the World Cup at 11 PM Japan time. Again . . . the disappointment continued. The best part of the whole US-Ghana ordeal was that we found this sweet Gaijin bar, where most of the wait staff spoke English. They let us practice our form of Japanglish, and in turn we critiqued their English. An all around informative night. “Here is the best line I learned: Sumimasen. Nama biru dai jokki, kudasai.” (I think that is correct?) It means, “Excuse me. Draft beer in a big mug, please.” Awesome.


June 23

On Friday, I worked mostly on the blog until Emilie Bess’s (the other JSPS’er) welcome party in the afternoon. It was put on by her lab, and was held in a discussion room near their office. One thing to know about going to parties in Japan, you always have to bring something . . . so I brought Jack . . . Daniels. I figured it’s made in Tennessee, I went to High School in Tennessee . . . it’s a match made in heaven. So after I picked up Jack from a nearby convenience store, I got lost trying to find the party (the ag school is an absolute maze) and was late. I guess that is also a big no-no. In any case, they had a bunch of sushi, and because they heard I like ika (squid) , they ordered extra just for me. Well, I guess I don’t like ika as much as I had thought. These pieces of sushi were huge and ika is very chewy. Evidently not a good combo for me. So, I gagged alot and eventually spit every piece of sushi back onto my plate. What a failure. Fortunately for my ego, the Jack Daniels was a hit, so at least that worked out. I think Bess-san has some pics, so I’ll try to include them at some point.

Pictures of Bess-san’s Welcome Party





June 24

Awesome day. I got up early, saw that it was going to be a beautiful day, and rode the cycle to the lab. First, I tried to check out the Internet, but it was down. I called Hasegawa-san on my cellie to ask whether the U shut off the Internet on weekends (no idea why they would do that, but had to ask). He said they don’t, we chatted for a sec and then we hung up. Five-minutes later, he calls back and invites me to go Rockfishing with him in the afternoon. So of course I accept.

While waiting for the fishing trip, I spent the rest of the morning wandering all over campus taking pics of various (and random) sites. The best pics are of the stream that runs right through the middle of campus. It seems heavily impacted (as are most streams here actually), but it provides a nice scenic setting. Another great set of pictures are those taken at the “Model Barn”. Pretty awesome stuff.

Pictures from around campus


That afternoon, Hasegawa-san and his girlfriend Kazahari-san, picked me up from my apartment. I guess I had not realized that he was taking his girlfriend, so I felt kind of bad that I was third-wheeling it. But, on the other hand, I was going fishing.

Hasegawa-san’s favorite rockfishing piers are located about 2 hours southwest of Sapporo, obviously on the ocean. On the way, we stopped at a convenience store/rest area for some awesome Hokkaido snack called Agemo, which is basically a skewered set of fried mashed potato balls. Frickin awesome. Also on the way, there was a nice view of what I think is translated into“Beautiful Mountain”. It is about 1000 meters smaller than Mt. Fuji, but is a pretty nice site.

We arrived at the piers around 4:30PM and immediately started fishing. Rockfish are actually a common name for several different species (mainly Aename and Soi). They are nocturnal, so the best way to catch them is by jigging vertically along a pier’s wall as they like to hide in cracks and crevices in the cement. I was using Hasegawa-san’s very nice Shimano bait-casting set-up, with a texas-rigged silver-specked, plastic minnow. I danced that thing all around the pier and wouldn’t you know it, within the first hour, I caught the first fish. It was a nice sized benthic fish that they call a Kajika (Koh called it a sculpin and it looks to be in the sculpin family . . . Steve, help me out here). In any case, Hasegawa-san and Kazahari-san were pretty happy about the catch, stating that it is really good in Miso soup. I was just happy to contribute. Then, almost immediately after I opened a celebratory beer, I caught another fish called Aename. I thought it too small, but Kazahari-san really wanted to take it home, as it makes very good sashimi. Hasegawa-san complied. After that flurry of action, things slowed down quite a bit and we caught only three more small fish in the next four hours.

Rockfishing pictures

Another highlight of the trip was dinner. We paused fishing around 8PM to go to a convenience store called Seico-mart. This place has everything. You can buy preheated dinners (I was a bit nervous so stuck with a fried rice dish), noodle bowls (they provide the necessary hot water), bacteen (I had a bit of a gash from playing softball), sake, hot coffee (not from a machine or coffee maker, but they put cans of coffee under a heat lamp to warm it. . . a bit strange), and various other sundries. I think people could live solely out of Seico-mart, and I am told that the Japanese 7-11 is the same way. In any case, it is a popular place to go for a quick bite.

After dinner, we went back to the piers for another couple of hours. We took off for Sapporo around 10:30PM, after many casts with no bites. It was a pretty exhausting day, so I had no problems getting to sleep.



June 25

I had my first meeting with my supervisor, Maekawa-san, in the morning. Hasegawa-san was also in attendance and he presented me with a meal made out of the fish we had caught the previous day. He made miso soup with the Kajika and sashimi out of the Aename. The portions were huge, so I shared with Emilie and her lab. Pictures of this are worth a thousand words.

Pictures from the Fishy Lunch

Emilie and I then set off to find the hyaku-en store (basically the dollar store), to buy some cheap house furnishings and such. My best purchases were a sweet, baritone bell for my bike and some glasses that say “pastel wind” on them (obviously a huge laugh every time we use them). That night we went to her labmate’s place for homemade pizza. Everyone in attendance, except one, was a foreigner (2 from US, 2 from Brazil, and 1 from Guam). The food was delicious and it seemed as though there were 2 pizzas per person . . . every five minutes a new pizza was coming out of the oven. This was also my first real chance to watch an extensive amount of Japanese TV. The commercials are definitely the best, as they are utterly insane, (it probably doesn’t help that I can’t read the product or understand the language); however, the images are enough to sell me on the products. I can’t wait to go to DAIIIIIIIICHI . . . I tried to go to bed early that night, as I was scheduled to go out into the field the next day. Thus went my second week in Japan.


3 Responses to “June 19-25”

  1. Steve Hensler Says:

    Dude, it’s definitely a sculpin. It’s a pretty nice one. How did it taste? The only sculpins big enough to eat in the Great Lakes are deepwater sculpins, and they stink so bad that I wouldn’t even think of eating them. I wonder if they taste like gobies?

  2. erin Says:

    You will eat all those crazy fishy things… and you won’t eat scrambled eggs!?!?!

  3. cheapsoma Says:

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