Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Fun ways to kill time in Kagoshima

Here's a little piece I did for Kinko Bay Tidings, an English language publication in Kagoshima that is mostly (9o percent or more?) written by Donican:
Short as my stay has been here so far (six months and counting), me and my friends have found some places that keep us entertained and going back for more.

MUSE CLUB (Frespo Yojiro)
Most foreign citizens only stay in Japan for a couple of years or so, so it would be safe to assume that, like me, you also get around by public transportation, and thus have to watch the time every time you go somewhere. It gets pretty boring after a while to go back home really early and do nothing in particular.

This is the place to go to if you have a group of people, not much cash in your pockets, and plenty of time to kill. Depending on what time you go there, you can spend between 1000 and 2000 yen per person for a decent number of hours belting songs and downing drinks (yes, it's all you can drink, but no, they're nonalcoholic). If you come in during the evening (after 9:00 pm if I'm not mistaken), you can stay until 5:00 am the next day. This should be good news for people with sleeping problems!
What's really cool about karaoke places in Japan is that they have songs in many different languages. They have songs in Japanese, English, Chinese, Korean, and even Tagalog (Filipino)! I browsed a bit through their song directory (they have a remote control device from which you can browse and order songs from) and songs in other languages in addition to what were already mentioned above can also be found in it (I found a couple of Spanish songs).

The rooms here are also worth some article space. At the MUSE CLUB, they have two types of rooms, smoking and non-smoking, and several different themed rooms. The smoking rooms are not so special. They're basically two long couches set against the walls and a long table in between. But their non-smoking rooms are a different story. One of the rooms we went to was cushioned all over (think mental hospital room). The good thing about this is that it is comfy enough that people would just lie down and feel right at home and really have fun. And, as one of my friends jokingly suggested, you can always come here when you don't have a place to spend a night because it's way cheaper than a hotel room, plus you get to sing when you can't sleep!

Photo Stickers
Okay, this is not exactly a location but a machine that can be found in many places. It may not have crossed your mind, but taking photos at photo sticker booths (what they call 'print club' or 'purikura' in Japan) actually takes a lot of time! So here's an option for you if you and your friends are at a loss for something to do.

Here's the reason why it takes a lot of time. The actual picture taking process doesn't really take any more than a couple of minutes, but the part where you design the photos - adding a few touches here, putting little hearts there - surprisingly takes a lot of time! (That is, unless you choose not to be creative and only add a couple of perfunctory touches)

One thing I learned from my many trips to the photo sticker booth (and yes, I do have a life away from the photo sticker booth) is that it is best to opt for a machine that provides infrared transmission if you have that choice. These days, most machines provide you with the option to download a photo or two off of their website (from your phone, of course) for free. But if you happen to be using a prepaid phone, you won't be able to download that photo because your phone does not have an Internet connection. Bummer. Another thing is that, you may have taken six photos, but the online download option will only give you a couple of digital files for free, whereas the infrared transmission will allow you to download all the digital files to your phone, right outside the machine itself.

So round your friends up and start posing away!

Round 1 (Usuki)
Round 1 is arguably one of the most preferred bowling alleys in Kagoshima. There are definitely less expensive places (like JJ), but people usually opt for Round 1 because it is better lit and better maintained.

The best deal to opt for is the bowl-all-you-can package. For less than 2000 yen per person, you can enjoy six games each!

There is a fun regular event that they call "Moon Light Strike Game." Basically, they turn down the lights, explain the rules to the game, and everyone bowls at the same time. The rules indicate that females and children should knock down 9 pins and males should bowl a strike in order to win this challenge. Victors and their friends get a group shot (where one of them wears a bowling pin costume) and a souvenir. So far they've changed the souvenir from a bowling alley photo stand to a bowling ball-shaped digital clock.

If you come here on your birth month and make reservations a day or two beforehand, you will also get a group picture and a huge inflated bowling pin which stands at about 5 feet!
Round 1 Spo-cha (Usuki)On the upper floors of the bowling alley in the Round 1 entertainment complex is Spo-cha. For a set fee per hour, you can play arcade games, sing karaoke, or engage in a wide variety of sports.

Their indoor sports include a shooting range, billiards, table tennis, skating, and a wide range of other sports. They also have an outdoor-sport option on the rooftop where you can play tennis, badminton, archery, and several others.

Surely, there are many other ways to kill time when you're with a bunch of friends. These are the places that we found so far. Try them out and hope you have as much fun as we did!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Aso Volcano in Kumamoto

This is about another one of our day trips in February.
This time we went to Kumamoto, a not-so-near prefecture in Kyushu.
(I think it took us around 6 hours each way, so we had to depart at around 5am...
poor Shinobu had to drive the whole way cuz he was the only person with a valid driver's license)

This is the cable car station (they call it 'ropeway' here) to the mouth of the volcano

Behind these guys are shelters for when the volcano erupts

Doesn't this look like an album cover or something? A pretty cheesy one though... :P

Tired but happy...

Somebody please explain why the liquid is greenish...

Baseball game in Miyazaki

Last month, we went on a day trip to Miyazaki to watch a practice game in a 'baseball camp' there.
It was the Giants versus 'Samurai Japan,' which were the best players in Japan (including those who were recruited overseas) put together.
They were training for the WBC (World Baseball Classics)

I don't really know much about baseball except for what I learned from playing video games and Nintendo Wii, but the game was pretty entertaining.

Ichiro Suzuki, who is now with the New York Yankees (I believe) was also present that day, which explains the large crowd despite the bad weather (see first picture) and the incessant picture taking (as can be seen on the video) whenever he's on the field.


Was sorting through my pictures and came across some really nice shots of Marie.
She had hair extensions put in for her graduation performances. :)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Interesting maps

This was from a while back, but it's really funny so I thought I should post it here.

A couple of months ago, Faiz and I were invited to Anis' place for some authentic Pakistani fare.
We'd never been to his place so Anis was kind enough to draw us a map to his place (from the train station)

Seemed fairly straightforward, right?
Turned out the path wasn't as clear cut as Anis' map seemed to be (above)

That's not all.
The other group of people who were invited were given a different kind of map by Anis' brother, Hafiz.
Check out the map below.

IMO, neither of us had it easy.
Both maps were pretty hard to navigate with, lol.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

'White Day' in Japan!

It's "White Day" today in Japan.

In Japan, on February 14th, Valentine's Day, females give chocolates to males.
The type of chocolate that are given can be divided into several types:
(I'm recalling this from memory, so there may be some discrepancy...)
homemade choco for people that are truly special to you
tomo choco for friends
giri choco for people you are obligated to be nice to

March 14th, on the other hand, is known as White Day.
Simply put, this is the day when males reciprocate and give females (who gave them chocolate on Valentine's Day) sweets or pastries in return.

So, this morning I suddenly remembered that today was White Day and half-jokingly sent a message to a handful of guys I know asking for White Day chocolate.

I didn't expect anyone to actually oblige.

Less than an hour ago, I was surprised by the persistent ringing of my doorbell.
Guess who it was?
Ryoutaro came to give me a box of pastries from both him and Youichi

What a pleasant surprise!
Thanks again you guys!
That definitely made my day! :P

Additional reading: Wiki

I hate people who talk behind other people's backs...

I don't want to name names because I'm not 100% sure of the validity of my hunch but I have to get this off my chest.

A certain someone is quite a character.
Let me start with two recent examples that directly affects me:

A couple of weeks ago, I sent this certain someone an email inviting him for a bowling night with our friends
(I invited him out of kindness, since I didn't want him to feel left out)
Guess what? I didn't receive a reply at all.
It's common courtesy to reply to direct questions, isn't it?

Then, a couple of days ago, I accidentally let slip that he's working part time over the break
It turned out he didn't apply for a permit, which is required for us to work
(Who would've thought that he was keeping his work secret?
And, how could you keep such work secret?
And, who would've thought that he would be stupid enough not to apply for a permit?)

By the way, I sent him another email that time informing him of a certain piece of good news and warning him that he should apply for a permit soon.
Guess what? No reply again.
But! Big BUT! He wrote a blog entry *hinting* that me letting slip that he had no permit would probably cause him to lose his job and what not...

Geez, can you just say it directly?
Stop being a hypocrite!
We accidentally ran across one another last week at school and he pretended that nothing was going on (hello? what about your replies to my emails?!) and made plenty of small talk.

Geez, what a faker...

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Two pieces of good news!

First, we found out on March 9, which happens to be Shiori's birthday, that she is 6 weeks pregnant! The baby is due October 30 this year.

Congratulations, Shiori and Youichi!

The second piece of news is...
I no longer have to pay rent! Yay!!!!!
A huge thanks to Prof McMurray and the international exchange office at NTNU for making this possible!!!

With the four months of rent (from April to July) that I get to save, I can...
...buy 1 and a half macbooks
...buy five good quality electronic dictionaries
...live comfortably without any income for four months in Taipei

...you get the idea :D

After finding out, a group of us went out to a ramen place for a 'celebratory' dinner :P

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Here's Yuna's rendition of "yofu," which means "hello" in Tienchinese :)

Monday, March 9, 2009

A little souvenir from Faiz

In Japan, customers can buy whole bottles of Shochu wine in izakayas and leave the bottle at the establishment were they unable to finish the wine in one sitting. It's called "keep" in Japanese.

A couple of weeks ago (I keep forgetting to post these pictures before today, so...), we made another trip to the izakaya we frequented. I knew that Faiz left an unfinished bottle before he left Kagoshima but I was surprised to find my name written on the bottle (lol)
(Tienchi wrote 'Shaquille O' Neal' btw)

I thought only 007 (the Chinese guy who used to live in apt. no. 107) and Zhao owned the bottle :P

Friday, March 6, 2009

A day in the life of...

I woke up today at 6:30am
not because I had a nightmare
but because I'm working at the movers today!

Ryoutaro came to pick me up at about 6:50am
(thanks for sacrificing your precious sleep time to help me on my first day!)
and we arrived around 7:00am at the company

I changed into overalls (will try to take a picture next time!)
and the day began with us moving empty boxes, bubble wrap, and supplies into the van
staff members are divided into teams each day and you never know who and where you'll end up with
turns out males and females do not work with one another

What's special about the moving business in Japan is that females (usually) go to the client's house and pack up the client's belongings into boxes (nice huh?) and then stack them up at a certain area in the apartment/house
then the males take over and move the boxes from the old residence to the new residence
then the females take over again and unload the boxes (get this ->) and restore them in their original positions!
Talk about customer service!

So today I went out with four other females and spent around ten hours packing a couple's belongings into a mountain made up of more than 30 boxes
...and we're not done yet...
I'm surprised at the strength of the other females, two are middle-aged and two just graduated from high school
I feel weak... Orz

But anyway, today (oops, it's past midnight now) yesterday was a great experience
a unique peek into a slice of Japanese life if you will
I'm tired and sleepy but I haven't really done any exercise these days
so I look at this also a workout
and a way to make sure I don't go broke (hehe)

I'm not on duty tomorrow
I guess they'll call me again when I'm needed
(Please call me~!)

Anyway, tomorrow I'll take it slow and let my muscles rest a bit
and do some studying!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

February 11: Shiori and Youichi's wedding

Although I'm a bit late in posting, this is one entry I do not want to leave out from my blog.
This is the first time I attended a friend's wedding (actually, we only went to the afterparty, but anyway...)
What makes it extra special is that I'm in another country and I know both the bride and the groom :)

Below are pictures from the "feather shower" and the bouquet throwing after the wedding banquet

Here's the bride in her pretty pink flowing wedding dress :D

Group shot! (Ryoutaro is drunk here)

The bride threw three bouquets and here are the three people who caught them

Here's the sign that announces that Shiori and Youichi's wedding was in session and that guests can leave their belongings here (or something... sorry, my Japanese isn't that good yet :P)

The adorable couple :D

Shiori's siblings: (L-R) Rino, Kazu, and Nana (this is the first time I met her in person because she's living somewhere near Tokyo with her husband)

Shiori's mom and dad all glammed up

me on the quasi red carpet

The sign announces that Shiori and Youichi's wedding banquet is in session and offers candy (in the basket) to those who see the sign (basically)

More about the afterparty in the next post!

Productive day

Although it wasn't very long, I finally sat down and read a research paper today.
My goal for the two-month long (which is halfway over) vacation is to read plenty of research papers and decide on a topic for my master's thesis and if I'm lucky, to get the literature review portion of the thesis over and done with.

Today was just a tiny, tiny step.

I'm going to start writing comments about the research papers I've read on a separate blog (http://jenzthesis.blogspot.com/) because it is not something everyone will be interested in. The reason why I'm starting this blog is so that I can put my comments down into words before I forget them, to help me think up more ideas revolving around the topic, and to potentially generate comments from other people who may read the blog.

One other thing that's happened today is that I received a call from Youichi saying that I can go work with them at the movers tomorrow. Yay! Money! I'm seriously strapped for cash, so this will definitely help some.

Youichi called me a couple of times today to make sure my first day goes well. Shiori sent me several emails teaching me some of the basics of the job and assuring me that all will be well. Ryoutaro has offered to pick me up at 6:45 in the morning tomorrow to make sure that I get to work on time and to help me with the transition.

Thanks a lot, you guys! You're the best!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


About a month ago, Marie, Trisha, and I came up with this idea that we should hold regular (say, annual) trips with the friends that we made in Japan at a different location each time

Sounds tempting
Even though it sounds like hard work, I hope that we can follow through with this

Monday, March 2, 2009

The last last print club with Tienchi in Kagoshima

Me and my big mouth again...
The previous print club stickers weren't the last ones with Tienchi
These ones are.
I can say for sure this time around because Tienchi should be in Taiwan now (her flight was two hours ago)

We took these photo stickers before we went for another all-nighter at our favorite karaoke place (MUSE CLUB)
Tienchi chose to do an all-nighter at the karaoke so she won't miss her train which departed at 6:30 this morning

Clockwise from bottom left:
Zhao, Hiroki, Erina, Tienchi, me, and Shinobu

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Culture bubble

I was on the train the other day and started thinking about what I have been noticing all throughout my stay here: people keep their distance from other passengers when they're taking the local transportation

Case in point: there are two types of trains where I live (in Sakanoue).
One type of train come in two-seater benches while the other type has long benches (cushioned, of course) on both sides of the train.
In both types, passengers tend to sit a bit apart from other passengers
It is especially evident in the trains with two-seater benches (I don't know how else to call it)
Although each bench can seat two people, not many strangers share the same bench in the train
I remember one time I was sitting in one of these benches and the seat next to mine and the two seats in front of me were unoccupied. Still, the high school student who boarded the train after me chose to sit on the floor instead of occupying any of the empty seats.

Ever heard of the term "culture bubble?"
I'm not sure if I got the term right, but the term essentially describes the distance a certain culture of people feel comfortable with when they deal with other people
For instance, if it were the same train in Taiwan, all the seats will be filled
If it were the same train in the Philippines, the two-seater benches would seat three to four people. LOL

I'm not exaggerating.
One time I went back to the Philippines, I was waiting in line at the airport and the person behind me was practically leaning on me!
I took a few steps forward and again she came closer to me like bees on honey!

I guess I have a way bigger bubble than most Filipinos after living outside the Philippines for so long...


Here's a funny little story from Zhao...

He was in the professor's office one day and a Japanese student was pouring drinks around.
When it was Zhao's turn, he said "いいです"
(which literally means "yes")
But the guy didn't give him anything to drink and left

Okay, here's some explanation
You know how it is the norm to be indirect in Japanese?
Well, this is the perfect example
When people say "いいです" (iidesu)
it can either mean yes or no depending on the context, the intonation, and I don't know what else

Quite tricky, huh?

Whenever I offer Shinobu something and he replies with an "いいです" (iidesu) or an "いいよ" (iiyo)
I recheck to make sure he's saying no
and that's usually the case

When he's saying yes, he says "いいの?" (iino)
which literally translates to "Oh, can I really?"

Japanese sure is a difficult language to master.