It especially won't work if the plan we hatched with our professor last week goes through - instead of having an hour and a half lunch break and then coming back for 40 minutes of class we may be starting classes at 8 am and getting more of our afternoons free. Not that it means we'll be spending more time in the city, per se, but at least we'll have more evenly distributed time for homework.
So, yeah, Friday night was boring. I caught up on Summer of Giles (although sadly not on the flist - it's a choice between one or the other at this point, and it's a painful jerk but I adore our little comm and can't ignore it), and then suddenly it went from 9 pm to midnight and the kids started coming in from their night of Friday drinking. Sadly they also chose to be in our lounge and so I went out and acted the crabby old lady and asked them to leave. Sarrin (our RA) was with her date for the evening (who had missed his train, again) and even though they were quiet to begin with, a young socially awkward man named Zane decided he was going to get drunk and badger them in the common room three doors away from my room. Then Shay - who is normally a sweet girl but that night was far far far too drunk - came in with her guardian and was alternatively laughing and crying and incredibly loud. I know I'm going to sound like the crotchety old lady but dear gods these people do not know how to moderate their drinking. I'm profoundly grateful that I went to a college not known for it's partying.
The dangerous thing about Tokyo, too, is that there are bars called nomi-hodai where you pay a specific set amount and it's all you can drink for a space of time (like an hour). It leads to mass drunkeness because these people simply gobble down as many drinks as they can - and then vomit them up a few hours later. The other frightening thing is that people don't seem to learn, as they're heading back out the next night to try to find a new cheaper nomi-hodai to drink at.
Nikko was absolutely stunning.
Wow, how to sum up without taking years? We headed out bright and early into the mountains, and were dropped off at an ages old shrine deep in the forest - the mist threaded in an out through the trees and gently framed the gilded edges of the temple rooftops. The Nikko shrine has some of the oldest carvings of the three monkeys (you know: see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil?) and a carving of the sleeping cat (or nemuru neko) and was just phenominal. Of course we stayed there for FAR too short, but had I a week it might not have been enough time.
Then we jaunted off to the hotel - also high above the hills, it's got an onsen on the premisis. Onsens are public baths (seperated by gender) where people go to relax in the very very warm waters. Our hotel rooms were fantastic - we stayed five to a room, but it was all of us women who have been hanging out with eachother lately anyway, and the rooms themslevse are half western (with two single beds and a little sitting area) and half eastern (with tatami mats and a low table and pillows on the floor... and later futon beds). There was a tea service set up for us when we got there, so we immediately settled down to a lovely tea that Sarrin served. It was simply smashing.
We were called down to a traditional dinner - served on low tables - and most people had already changed into their yukatas (these are less formal than kimonos and are worn at the Onsens after you've been in the baths themselves). Boys had blue, Girls pink. So cute. The traditional dinner was about a million plates (well, really, 10 or so) that included crab in the shell, rice with veggies that they made in little containers at the table, fatty pork in a brown sauce that was super yummy, some kind of tuber or root prepared two different ways, umiboshi and other pickled things - umiboshi is salted dried plumbs, i think, and is really quite fowl, but hey, it's their tradition - also an egg custard that was more eggy than custardy, miso soup, veggies and a little strip of meat grilled at the table sukiyaki style, and some other stuff that I'm now forgetting. It was interesting to eat for sure. I'm not sure if I'd say it was good - but interesting.
After that we actually tromped up to our rooms and changed into our own yukatas, then headed down to the onsen. Some of the girls had trouble being naked in front of eachother, but age has finally given me something good because I didn't really worry about my body not being perfect while it's uncovered next to 20 year olds. I did, however, tease the crap out of them for not being willing to get naked if I could. Well, ok, teased a little. The water was great, but I can only stand about an hour or so of that kind of thing before I feel like I'm a limp noodle. Since we all kind of felt that way we headed back out of the onsen (it was on the ground floor) to see what everyone else was doing.
That's when the real party started. We'd brought alcohol with us since our RA (Marius) had quietly informed us it was much cheeper than buying it there, and settled in to a quiet round of some kind of drinking game with some of the boys. Not bad, kind of silly, and with half a dozen of us there. Then the Japanese guys on vacation came over. And some more of the IES kids found us in the lobby. And there was more drinking, and goofing, and some very silly conversations. Of course the Japanese guys tried to hit on most of the girls, and asked if several of the guys in our program were gay. They were construction workers from a city about 40 minutes outside of Tokyo, and one of the guys was doing very silly magic tricks with our cards once we relinquished them to him. There was a bunch of laughter and silly ness, at least up to a certain point, and then probably at about 3 in the morning or so the whole thing started on it's downward arc and I went to bed.
Unfortuntely we had to be up by 6 am for breakfast, and trust me, that did not happen, so instead we hopped on the busses and departed our little fun sanctuary at 8:30 am (yes, on a vacation day). However, it was worth it, mostly, because they took us to a place where we could see the dragon river (I think that's it's name - if I ever get real internet back I'll go look it up and really figure it out) and actually walk down to the water. It was absolutely stunning.
Actually, if you want to see pics, one of the guys in the program posted them to his lj here - if you look at the last one, I elected to take an hour's rest about 15 feet away from that spot, with a perfect view of the bridge in one direction and the meandering river in the other. The only bad part was that we only had two hours there.
Then we were hustled back on the bus and over to a local soba restaurant to learn how to make soba. It was a ton of fun, but sadly my group got to eat at the very last (about 3 pm) because the place was simply not set up to handle that many people actually being there and we had to cook our soba in groups of three. The Soba Sensei was incredibly sweet though, and gave us some of his home made tofu since we were the last group to go through - and it was FANTASTIC. Oh my god I've never had tofu that tasted that good before. He makes it himself and wow was there a difference. It was doubly incredible as I'd had nothing to eat since the night before, I'm sure.
We wound our way home and actually managed to check back into NYC without any organizational mishaps. Thank goodness. I think it was a first. And that was Nikko.
Mexican food in Tokyo
Yep, you read right. Mexican food in Tokyo. Went to El Torrito on Sunday night ... it was an unintentional fluke. We started out a group of three going to a store to pick up some flashcards and then to the bookstore to browse Japanese Kanji books (and things for me, of course). And pick up some food, all before we had to do our homework. A quick little jaunt, right?
By the time we reached the elevator (about 30 feet away from my door) we ended up with 10 people who were all marginally interested in going to sorta the same places who started out from NYC. And trust me, 10 people walk much slower than three. They do everything slower. Walk. Shop. Choose a direction. Department stores are so cool here, since they're part of other buildings - the one we went to was 8 floors and it was inside ANOTHER building/department store, linked to another bunch of stores, with a skywalk to a six story bookstore. By the time we got there, though, three people were ready to break off and immediately go to dinner. Megan and I were into the bookstore, but we browsed the department store to keep the original group together (and since we thought the bookstore closed later). We lost two other people on some other floor, and then we were down to five. That's almost managable. However, it was about an hour later and we still hadn't made it to the bookstore. Megan and I took it upon ourselves to just *go* and were in the bookstore for all of about 5 minutes when they announced they were closing. Fantastic stuff.
We discovered our friends on the skywalk heading towards the bookstore, waylaid them, then went to look at the restaurant floor. Because in these big skyscraper malls? There's usually a restaurant floor or two. This one was moderately expensive and most of them had little signs at their entrances stating that they were full now and wouldn't we have a seat around the corner and put our names on a list, (and since some people weren't interested in spending a ton of money) we went back onto the street to look for restaurants. That's when Cal suggested Mexican ... and said he knew where the restaurant was.
Ah, the magical words. "I know where it is" ... sometimes finding things in this city ... it's like finding a needle in a haystack. The key is to have someone to guide you. Sunday night that was our Cal. And he led us straight to a chain restaurant, but since all the kids in our program were from the East Coast they'd never heard of them. I laughed, and then proceeded to agree to going in.
The food, just in case you were wondering, actually isn't that bad at all. Japanese standards require higher levels of freshness and things like that, and they actually tasted pretty good to me (although Megan said that the thing she ordered kind of sucked as an example of Mexican food - but it was mexican food in tokyo... better than the tacos Neil and I got in Europe that came with rounds of carrots in them).
Monday was study day
On Monday I had a long and boring day, and since our midterm was Tuesday I tried to head to bed and get some sleep before I had to wake up and study. But that didn't really happen the way it was supposed to. The food we ate this weekend left me constipated, and once that was slightly better the mexican kicked in with a little of the opposite. Yep, fantastic. That on top of trying to study and an egregious amount of homework (literally we were doing the listening portion of it for 4 hours... on a night we had a test!) I'm was pooped and a little on the down side. I don't mean to complain a whole ton, because even in though it took forever, at one point we got so giddy doing one of our listening things tonight that I actually cried a little bit while laughing (and my sides hurt soooo much). It's been a long time since I've gotten to study nightly with people and I'd forgotten how much fun it can be.
Tuesday test day - A plague is on our house!
Of course this morning I woke up with a tickle in the back of my throat and a test this afternoon. Now the day is over, and I'm really glad. And that's really all I want to say about that - except to complain just a little since we seem to be a virus factory here and I've now got the feeling I've got another cold coming on. We seem to be passing them around to eachother, and it doesn't help that everyone's suffering from lack of sleep and overexertion. I think I'm looking forward to seeing my own pillow almost as much as I'm looking forward to seeing Neil when I get back home.
Tomorrow, hopefully, will be a better day. And now I'm going to try to get to sleep and hope that when I wake up, it will also be a sick free day for me. :D And maybe I'll have some time soon to explain just why the guest speakers they've scheduled for us completely suck - we're now two for three in my book as we had another one this afternoon who sounded interesting but who ... wasn't really. Sigh. I'll be glad to get back to lecturers on my own campus, I will.