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Sapporo Chocolat Brewery
I found this fairly nice chocolate stout style beer at the local Seiyu. I think it is being sold for Valentines Day, so it isn’t going to stay around for long.

Too bad, I really like this beer. It is an actual stout, which is something that most breweries in Japan seem to have confused with black ale, the Nagoya Kinshachi brewery being a notable local exception.

But, this is Japan, and they love to release new products. Kit-Kat at Seiyu has 2 flavours every month, aside from the normal flavour. Beers are quite seasonal, with more than just the winter/summer styles coming and going.

It is kind of fun, for something like Kit-Kat where I like the normal flavour, and some of the special ones like maple. Banana was a flavour that I was glad to see leave quickly, though.

For beers, where I don’t like the standard Japanese style (they love pale styles of beer, similar to a Pilsener), having styles I do like appear occasionally is quite annoying.

(And I have no clue why I am starting to write in British. Maybe my next quest will be to find some nice tea and crumpets?)

Elementary School

Today I went to an elementary school, and gave a presentation about my “country”, Colorado.

The beginning was kind of odd, since another Yamasa student and I were put into a classroom with a bunch of students, and then the teacher disappeared. Since there was a laptop and projector already set up, we figured out what to do, but it was kind odd not having the teacher around at all. Here is my description as it would appear in a text-based adventure game for that room:

“You are in a classroom. 12 6th-grade students are looking at you expectantly. Most of the desks are shoved against the north wall, except for one in the middle with a projector and laptop on it. The teacher is nowhere to be seen.
Exits: West”

My presentation was just lots of pictures in a slide show.

I think the only thing they will remember from the presentation is that some people in Colorado can take pictures of bears from their kitchens, and that Colorado has lots of mountains.

After that we started playing games, and then the English Lesson happened. The English Lesson was broadcast on the school TVs, opening with a guy singing Row Your Boat very slowly. Then they went over a couple of phrases as a response to “How are you?”, except with very exaggerated pronunciation.

Making Mochi
Then we started making mochi, a thick paste of rice.

More pictures inside

書道

I went to the 書道/Shodo, or Japanese calligraphy class today.

In Japan it is more of an art, so there isn’t one “Correct” way to do things. But, you have to practice a bit to get whatever kind of result you do want. My characters are still way too fat, and I don’t have the different endings on the strokes right. The characters that are written are also up to me, so I had fun choosing interesting kanji. Usually characters are chosen to have a good meaning or something worthy of being art, but I went with stuff like war (戦争) and ship’s hold(船倉), which are pronounced the same: sensou, box-garden(箱庭) and other really random kanji words.

熊馬鹿
熊 (Kuma) Bear
馬 (Uma) Horse
鹿 (Shika) Deer

But, 馬鹿 (Baka) is idiot. So, a Japanese person looking at this would first see a couple of animal kanji, bear and horse, and then see “idiot”.

More inside

My Middle Name is Difficult

But “Difficult” is not my middle name……..
(I have been going by my middle name since I came here to Japan, thinking it was easier for Japanese to say. My last name gets butchered in Japanese horribly, but my middle name survives with just an extra vowel at the end. Apparently my name is so “foreign” that some people even have a hard time imagining that I am an American, insisting that I have to be from Scandinavia)

I went to a restaurant tonight with some Japanese friends, and one of them wrote my name in Japanese on the list of people. Then, the people I was with were joking about how the staff would call us, whether they would call my name, since it was obviously a foreign name. I was the only white person in the restaurant.

The host managed to completely avoid saying my name, and instead came up to us and said, “You guys are the party of 3, right?”, at which point we all started to laugh.

Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology

The Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology near Nagoya Station, Japan is an amazing place. They cover Toyoda’s initial development of looms and other cloth related technology and machines, and then go on to machining and cars.

This is a HUGE museum, you could easily spend days here, between the fabric part, the metal testing part, car manufacturing part, Toyota car history part, and the other stuff. Then, instead of having static models of stuff, they actually have some of the machines run, whether it is a thread spinning machine, a forge, or the various mechanical systems on a car. Those machine actually use/do what they were designed to do, so you will see thread being made from cotton, thread being made into fabric, pieces of metal being forged, and various other things.

Plus they sell these:
Spoon Wrench

Rest of my pictures from this museum here