Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Winter Wonderland~

Posting an update from Belgium! It's soooo cold here, and since I haven't visited Belgium in the winter for years, it's a bit of a shocker. Here's the scene I woke up to that first morning... 

Snooowww! I was just thinking "雪だ!ひさしぶり〜" So pretty~ These are all shots of my grandparents backyard. We really were able to enjoy a white Christmas this year :)


You can really see the sheer amount of snow - apparently they haven't had this much snow during Christmas in Belgium for yeeeaaars. There are several good inches there. Pretty to look at, but driving was super inconvenient. There was mostly ice at first, so you couldn't do much with it either. But once it fell back down again, it became a bit more malleable.

My sister loves playing in the snow (I'm a wimp and hate the cold) so she made a snowman! かわいいでしょう〜?This really made me smile.

As for the holidays themselves, they went really great. Like I said, driving around was rough, but the actual get-togethers went awesome and being able to see family was the best. And the food!
Christmas eve was a home-cooked meal. My aunt and grandmother did a lot of the cooking, with some of the stuff being bought. That's one of the great things about a lot of grocery stores over here - they make some really high-quality ready-made meals.

This is a tray of amuse-bouches. My favorite thing is something that I can't find a photo of, unfortunately - smoked salmon and a avocado and cream cheese mousse wrapped in rolls made of crepes. Definitely would like to try making them myself sometime.

And for the aperitif, champagne with edible hibiscus flowers in them for decoration. I had orange juice, so you couldn't really see the flowers, but they add a nice sweetness to the drink. I actually ate my flower. Odd texture, but it was yummy~

This entrée is foie gras with a salad. I could eat this as a meal, it was so perfect. And my aunt made it sooo pretty!

Main course: Christmas turkey! With "farce," stuffed pears, and croquettes (my favorite *_*). This is when you start getting super full but it's just too tasty to stop. It was a rare occasion after all!

And finally comes dessert: Buche de Noel. It's a cake in the shape of a yule log, and this one was raspberry flavored with vanilla cream, and decorated with chocolate and macaroons.

And then, Christmas day we went to visit the other side of the family, and it was round two! This time we went to a fancy restaurant instead. We got completely distracted and didn't take pictures of all the courses, but here are a couple of examples.

This was an interesting salad with pieces of - I think - melon, cucumber, fois gras, etc... I think this was probably my favorite course. And that toasted bread was amazing. We had two or so other courses before dessert.

I love having multiple little things to eat, especially for dessert. A chocolate cake, ice cream, and a "fondant"/crispy crepe type of thing. Maybe a bit too much chocolate for my tastes and but undeniably delicious.

So you could say that we had a successful Christmas. Good food, good people, good times. And that wasn't it for us.

My mom's birthday is on December 26th, so it's always kind of hard to celebrate it. This year we dedicated the Buche de Noel to her and sang and everything on Christmas eve, but on the 26th my dad went and bought these adorable pastries to celebrate as well. The chocolate ones have meringue, and the snowmen have both raspberry and vanilla mousse, with an outer shell of white chocolate.

And now to go starve myself... heh, just kidding, but these were definitely special meals for special occasions! Hope everyone is enjoying the holidays!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tweet Log 12 (August)

Continuing my story through tweets... start at the beginning here.

Go back to part 11.
Go forward to part 13.


Had ZERO internet for the past few days, didn't expect that! So much to blog about, such bad connections XD

Blog Post: Epic Journey of Summer 2010! Part 2 (Belgium)

In the end, I had to post it without some of the pictures, but I'll fix that when I get back home. At least I'm getting some material out :)

Arashi's new album is out!! I just listened through the entire thing right now ^^;; Sooo happy about it~~~

Also, I'll be heading back to the US tomorrow. I'll have to put the blog posts up when I get back due to the problems with the pictures...

Back in the US! So much to doo~ Need to catch up with blog posts! I'll try to get those out asap :)

First things first, fixed the pics from the last Belgian trip update!

Urk. I just updated Anki and my kanji deck just... disappeared. o.o ?!?!?!?

Ok.. I lost the progress I'd made, but I think my deck's ok now.... phew! XD

I've been kind of under the weather, so it's been hard to get anything done... Bear with me >.<

So I've calculated I need to do ~30 new cards a day if I want to finish my goal of getting through Heisig's 1st book before school starts...

We'll see if I can do it, but either way, I'm almost there! :D

Blog Post: Epic Journey of Summer 2010! Part 3 (Holland) Lots of pictures in this one ^o^

アムステルダム | Lang-8 #lang8

Never made so much food before! off to another avatar party~ XD

Blog Post: Tweet Log 8 (March/April)

Uploaded a sorta filler-blog since I've been so busy and unable to post new travel stuff! Hope to change that within the next couple days :D

I've been doing pretty well at keeping up my pace of 30 new kanji a day... we'll see if I can keep it up till the finish line though o.o

Just finished lesson 48 in Heisig's. Only six more! :D

I tend to try to sing (or at least lipsync vigorously lol) to Japanese songs I love when I run on the treadmill. Bit more of a workout XD

I tend to try to sing (or at least lipsync vigorously lol) to Japanese songs I love when I run on the treadmill. Bit more of a workout XD

Sorry for the hiatus, folks! I've been moving into a new apartment and school starts in a couple of days, so I've been busy - bear with me!

Blog Post: Epic Journey of Summer 2010! Part 4 (Holland)

Phew, new blog post, and also plans of starting my daily twitpics again. Slowly getting back into the swing of things!

Reached kanji 2000! Gah, so clooose, hope to get done within the next few days XD

Just finished lesson 56! One more lesson! Maybe I could even finish today! :D

I officially finished Heisig's first book!!!! やった〜〜〜〜〜〜!!!! Partaaaaay ^o^

So I might have reached my kanji goal about... four days late, but honestly I don't mind. I just feel great about finishing the book!

Now I need to actually properly learn everything and keep reviewing. But I won't have any new kanji cards for a while :)

Back to an attempt at daily Japan pics! Here's a pretty doll we saw in a train station.

Urk... been too busy to do anything fun with an Arashi birthday as an excuse... but had some cheese cake today... Happy Birthday Jun! XD

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Motivation ideas: Jigsaw puzzles

I’m dealing with finals for school right now and am trying a new way to keep myself motivated. Maybe this would work for you too!

I try to find different ways to turn tasks into a game to keep things fun and help with motivation. This includes checklists and bar graphs, like I mentioned in another post. An awesome app for the iPhone is EpicWin (check them out!) But I’ve also added a further element to the fun.

A jigsaw puzzle. What I did was print out a picture (this time around, it was one of Teppei Koike – I mean he does have one of the best motivational videos ever…). I flipped the picture over, drew dividing lines on the back, and cut the picture into pieces. The number of pieces equals the number of tasks I need to finish (for this case, the number of readings I need to do for a final exam). I put these aside, and every time I finish a task, I award myself one of the pieces of the puzzle at random. The puzzle itself isn’t that difficult, but this way, instead of just writing check marks or filling in a progress bar, I’m actually piecing together a picture, which is much more gratifying.

I’m surprised by just how much this has been helping me. It might be the fact that I personally love jigsaw puzzles, so this may not work for everyone. I definitely plan to use this kind of thing next semester for my new courses, and this can also be used for things like Japanese study (or just about anything!). 

I love coming up with fun activities like this to track progress on various tasks, and over the break I’d like to develop some kind of new fun system for next semester’s classes. I really like the jigsaw puzzle thing, but I also love things like treasure hunts and whatnot, and I’m trying to think of ways to incorporate that. I feel like I’m turning into a kid again, but hey, fun gets things done!

I realize that the methods used to accomplish tasks probably shouldn’t take more time/effort than the tasks themselves… I’m trying not to go overboard, but just come up with new ideas every once in a while and implement them in the most efficient way possible. If you guys have any fun ways to keep yourself motivated, let me know!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Drama Review: Tokyo Dogs

I watched this one on a whim almost right after it started airing in Japan, and I was immediately hooked. (Hate it when I do that, then I have to actually wait for the next episode :p) This drama primarily revolves around a great combination of both action and comedy, and just a small bit of romance. This isn’t a cutesy, sappy romantic show, but it’s not a serious and epic one either. It’s a fun, laid-back, yet exciting show that I can only describe as entertaining.

The plot is fairly unique and intriguing. It begins in New York, following Kudo Maruo, a small-time police officer on a dangerous mission of capturing a criminal mastermind, Jinno. The leader of the Japanese division is the haughty Takakura Sou, who takes himself and the mission extremely seriously since Jinno is his arch nemesis and had killed his father. The mission in New York fails, with the only clue being a young girl with amnesia named Matsunaga Yuki that mysteriously appears on the site. The police division is sent back to Japan after the failure, to Sou’s frustration. The mission to find Jinno thus continues in Japan, and a chaotic situation arises: Maruo and Sou are assigned as partners to watch over Yuki. The clash of personalities is the main comedic aspect of this show. Maruo is loud and rambunctious, has a very short temper, and is generally fairly unprofessional; Sou is cool and collected, always remaining professional even in the most ridiculous situations, although he can also be very abrasive and harsh.

I generally really enjoy Oguri Shun and Mizushima Hiro, the two main actors in this drama, and while their characters this time around may have been over-the-top, I still loved watching them. I just thought the interaction between them was so damn funny. Once they start arguing, they somehow quickly yet progressively go from fighting about something like a mistake Maruo made with a gun, to whether fish tastes good with bread. It’s ridiculous and – I think – hilarious. All the scenes where Sou’s mother calls in the middle of a tense situation also made me laugh. Thus the writing was very good, but the execution was great as well. The fighting/action scenes were decent, and the acting styles, while maybe a bit too much, worked well with the overall feel of the show. The overarching plot intrigued me – while originally I was just watching it for the comedic aspect, I ended up getting really sucked into the story. The side plots weren’t annoyingly unnecessary but actually worked well together and always helped in character development and advancement of the main plot. I also like that the romance parts, while present, don’t take over the show. Yuki is a very important character, but the focus still remains on the progression of Sou and Maruo. In the end, though, I don’t really come back to this show for the story, but for the comedy and action; the decent plot is just a plus.

That being said, this show isn’t perfect, and it’s not for everyone. While I found Sou and Maruo’s arguments to be hilarious, others might find them annoying. Despite all of the action in this show, it’s not one that you can really take very seriously. Also, many of the characters are sooo over-the-top, especially Maruo. I don’t know if they’re over-acting, or if the script just really calls for them to do that, but it can be too much at times (and I generally have a pretty high tolerance for that kind of thing…). The pacing of the show is also not the best. At the beginning, everything happens so quickly. Not only are story elements flying by, but the conversations between many of the characters tend to be quick and choppy, so you have to keep up if you want to understand everything. The story can get a little convoluted and confusing at times, although I didn’t really find that to be too much of an issue. Because the show relied so much on humor and action scenes rather than a particularly amazing story, I also found it to be a little bit forgettable. It’s been a little while since I’ve seen it, and I honestly don’t remember all the details of the ending. The ending itself was alright, but nothing really spectacular. (And by the way, as a side note, Hiro's look, with the goatee and everything, was not my favorite XD)

Ultimately, everything about this show depends on your tastes. Most people I’ve talked to find this drama really entertaining, though, and I personally really enjoyed it. I would encourage you to at least try watching the first episode, as you can really get a good feel for it (it’s not one of those shows that you have to be patient and stick through until the end – you’ll know right away whether you like it or not). This is basically a comical, yet action-packed, really fun show that I definitely think is worth a try!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tweet Log 11 (July)

Continuing my story through tweets... start at the beginning here.

Go back to part 10.
Go forward to part 12.


Came back home to this! My mom got me a ton of authentic Japanese manga that her friend was giving away!!! ^0^

A natural hotspring! Not very big, but still very warm and was a fun site :D

Things have been slow since I'm pretty busy - nearing the end of my summer school session and moving out of my apartment this weekend!

I do plan to get a blog out in the next few days though ;D

An artsy glass house in the middle of the mountains. Not many tourists get to see this kind of stuff O.o

Blog Post: Cooking Adventures - Okonomiyaki

Added a "Tweets" section to my blog - not sure whether to show tweets like that or just put up a "follow me!" button..

Another shot of the glass house in the mountains. So mysterious...

I'll be leaving for Belgium on Monday! Busy busy, but I plan to get in a couple of blog entries before then! One of them in a few minutes...

Blog Post: Lang-8 Part 2

So determined to get through RTK by the end of the summer! *SRSing away*

A structure inside some train station that I found kinda interesting XD

I've been watching so many Disney movies in Japanese on Youtube lately! :D

At the airport! Heading out to Belgium. Not sure how much I'll be able to tweet but hopefully I will have Internet. Shuppaaaatsu!

Made it to Belgium safely and I sorta have internet! I'll have to see whether I'm able to update the blog...

French keyboards are pretty different from Americans one - I have to get used to them again!

Blog Post: Epic Journey of Summer 2010! Part 1 (Belgium)

Today, July 21st, is the Belgian Independence Day! Woo~

Finished the entire series of よつばと!I'll definitely be going through it again in the future, such a fun and cute series ^^

ベルギー | Lang-8 #lang8

Finding it a lot harder than I thought it would be to do any kind of work over here :/ Having fun with the family, but little time to myself

Also, have a depressing amount of homework to do. Meeting my kanji goal might not happen. I'll do my best though >.<

Working on a new blog, but having an issue with the pictures (curse you bad internet!) This may take a while.. I might post it w/o pics..

Sunday, November 7, 2010 Japanese Core 2000

So I know I've briefly discussed before in my Japanese Learning Methods post a while back. I still think it's an awesome tool, but in the past few months I had been focusing on other methods of learning. Now I'm coming back and wanted to have more of a discussion of my current Japanese learning methods.

So here's some background on my personal learning situation. A year ago, I was taking a Japanese class in college (my fifth semester) and was still in the earlier stages of the first volume of Remember the Kanji (which I talk about in my discussion of kanji). At that point, while I still felt like I had so much to learn, I also felt pretty "well-rounded." My listening and speaking skills, as well as my reading and writing skills, were all at around the same level, with maybe my listening skills being just above the rest of my other skills since I was already watching a lot of doramas and variety shows.

Then, last semester, I took a semester off from my Japanese course, since my other classes didn't really permit it. It didn't really bother me, and thankfully my skills didn't really drop or anything. I had managed to keep up with my Japanese decently enough, but my focus definitely changed during that semester. I wasn't practicing speaking too much and was focusing on kanji. I started reading Japanese manga, so I was getting much better at reading, but I never took any time to learn new grammar points or vocab, only naturally picking up a couple of things every once in a while. It was all about Remember the Kanji at that point. Well, by the end of the summer, I had finally finished the book! And then the fall semester had started, and I'm taking a Japanese class again.

Finishing RTK has definitely made a difference in the learning process. I'm not an expert on the kanji yet by any means - I'm still reviewing them everyday, and the backlog's pretty hefty. But whenever I see a new word, I'll have an idea as to what it means, or at least feel like I've seen it before, which does wonders for remembering it. So I'd just like to take this moment to reiterate how ingenious Heisig's concepts are and urge you to check it out if you haven't yet!

Anyway, while I am still doing my kanji reps now, my focus for the past couple of months has shifted once more. I'm learning new grammar and vocab through my class now, but the biggest difference has to be in my speaking practice. I realized during my semester off that, even if I don't always feel like I learn enough from my class alone, it still forces me to listen and speak Japanese for a solid fifty minutes, three times a week. I am thankful for that class for giving me that small opportunity to practice speaking. Something else that's made a difference is the fact that I've joined an organization that matches you up with a language partner, and now I'm meeting up with two Japanese friends once a week and can practice speaking with them.

I've already felt a difference from the past couple of months. It's not that I've necessarily learned all that much that allows me to speak more, but I'm really starting to just feel comfortable and less afraid to make mistakes when I speak. I'm often told that my Japanese sounds "natural," even if it's not perfect. I really feel like I'm overcoming a hurdle with my speaking skills here, and that feels great - I'm so much less shy, which really does wonders.

So now I feel like I have a good base - a couple of thousand kanji to help with my writing, the necessary confidence and naturalness to help with my speaking, not to mention a basic understanding of grammar to help me with both. And now I'm really wanting to take the next step, which is: vocab.

I honestly just feel so limited when it comes to vocabulary. I can hold a basic conversation now, which makes me happy, but I want to take it to that next level, and now I have the tools to do so. I don't think it will be as dramatic change of focus as my last two stages (in fact, I feel like I'm still in the midst of the stage where I'm improving my speaking skills). But it's something I want to slowly edge into and add to the rest of my Japanese learning.

So the point of this long-winded post? (If you've stuck around this long, I do appreciate it!) I'm getting back into and am resuming my progress on Japanese Core 2000. Now, it's true that my original plans a long time ago would be to follow the AJATT way of doing sentence practice once I'm done with kanji. I'm not abandoning that, and I do plan to write my own sentences later on. But I'm still reviewing my kanji cards on Anki, and I think that creating another deck right now from scratch may not be the best choice. I had already been studying Japanese by the time I stumbled onto AJATT, so I haven't really been able to follow the "standard" order of things. I don't feel like I necessarily *need* sentences right now, since I have a decent understanding of basic grammar, and what I'm really craving right now is more vocabulary.

I've actually already started the core 2000 a long time ago, and I realize that there are a lot of words I already know, but I'm not too worried about it. The fact that all of the flashcards are already made for me helps so much. Besides, each word comes with their own example sentence, and I know that the goal is to aim for 10,000 sentences, but 2000 is okay for a first step, right? Also, I think having something outside of Anki will be nice. It's a change of setting (I find to be much prettier than Anki is heh), and because I haven't bought the iphone app for Anki (yet?) but I have the free one, I can focus on my kanji reps when I'm at the computer, and do my vocab reps when I'm out and about.

I'll see how things work out! Has anyone else done the core 2000 set? What methods do *you* use to learn Japanese in general? I'd love to hear from you guys :)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cooking Adventures: Katsu

So I haven’t made any katsu in a while, but I have some old pictures that I can still use to illustrate this. I had made some pork katsu at that point, but you can use chicken, fish – anything you want! You can serve it on rice and you’ll have katsu-don. I've had it with a side of peas or spinach – unconventional, perhaps, but it works! I’ll just be discussing the katsu itself in this post.

The basic method of making katsu is not particularly complicated, and it’s actually very similar to making croquettes. First, you’ll want to take your meat and pound it out until it’s pretty flat. I’m sure there are fancy tools out there, but I just put my pork in a ziploc bag and pounded it out by hand. I find it easier to cook if it’s flattened out.

This is where you’ll see the resemblance to croquettes. Have some flour and panko (or bread crumbs) ready, then beat an egg or two (egg whites by themselves are what you would usually use, but honestly, using a whole egg works just fine). First, cover the meat in flour, then dip it into the egg, and then finally place the whole thing into a plate of panko.

Turn it over a couple of times and sprinkle panko on it until it’s completely covered. Now it’s time to fry this thing!

Put some oil in a pan and start heating it up. I’d probably keep it at about medium when you’re actually frying the katsu. Be sure to have an apron and maybe some long sleeves during this process – little specks of oil tend to jump out, so be careful. I’ve always had tiny burns that sting a little, but otherwise have had very little trouble with this process. Put the meat in and let it fry.

I’m not sure of the amount of time you’re supposed to keep it on one side before flipping it over. Generally, I use my chopsticks to lift it up and check. Don’t worry too much about flipping too early, you can always flip it back over. As you can see, I hadn’t fried it enough the first time around, but it’s nothing to worry about.

 Keep flipping back and forth until both sides become a nice golden-brown. You can cut it to make sure it’s cooked all the way through, but that’s what’s nice about making sure the meat isn’t too thick – as soon as the panko is golden-brown, the meat will be cooked enough.

And there you have it! Serve it with some katsu sauce and any sides that you like. I’ve never made my own katsu sauce, but you can usually find it at regular grocery stores. I’m sure you could always use ketchup or something, if you prefer…

I love katsu, and it’s definitely a nice treat to make for yourself every so often. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tweet Log 10 (June)

Continuing my story through tweets... start at the beginning here.

Go back to part 9.
Go forward to part 11.


Trying out a new app. Cupcake party! Avatar characters Aang and Momo and the kanji for love XD

I need to try revamping a few things in my online activities. I'll try getting back into posting pictures from my Japan trip for one! ^^

We had the pleasure of visiting some beautiful hotsprings in Shizuoka. It was wonderful~

Blog post: Tweet Log 6 (January/February)

River in Tokyo. I had no idea where we were but it was pretty :D

Added a live traffic feed to track where in the world people are visiting my blog from :D

Tokyo Tower!

Made some spinach with my katsu today but over-seasoned it. I need to learn to season things better ><

夏の授業 の授業

Blog post: My take on learning Kanji

勉強と食べ物 | Lang-8 #lang8

Otanjoubi omedetou Neener! It's Ninomiya Kazunari's birthday! :D

Beautiful grave... with a creepy baby doll? Oh the interesting things we saw in Japan...

Watched episode 8 of Kaibutsu kun. It's actually getting *serious*... Getting intense and interesting!

Also watched episode 9 of Sunao ni Narenakute... Getting worried about how this drama will end overall :/ So good yet so depressing...

I can't remember where this was, but I thought it was a beautiful building :D

The beach! This is from when we went to Shizuoka. We didn't go in the water though >.>

Just finished second season of Bloody Monday! :D

More of the Shizuoka coast! It was a little rainy, but that actually felt nice in the heat.

Blog Post: Tweet Log 7 (February/March)

Just finished watching Kaibutsu kun! That show surpassed my expectations, I ended up really loving it~! ^o^

Just got to kanji number 1500! It's slow going, but it's going~ ^^

Watching random clips of My Girl. So friggin cuuuute ^^

Just went on a ~30min run while listening to happy, bouncy songs. Most fun I've ever had running and I feel awesome! #immersion

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Arashi: Boku no Miteiru Fuukei

So I wanted to try something new and make a little review on a Japanese music album that came out fairly recently. This is, of course, the latest Arashi album, Boku no Miteiru Fuukei ! So if you’re not into happy, poppy boy bands, then I’m not sure you’d be into this post. XD I’d like to review some other Japanese groups later on, so hopefully at some point I’ll touch on something that would interest everyone. Arashi is still my favorite, though, so they’re probably the group that’ll pop up the most.

I was SO excited when the new album came out in August! I was actually in Belgium at the time, so it was hard to get access to the music, but once I got it, I couldn’t stop listening to it (which was nice for the plane trip home). I know it’s been a little while since it came out, but now that I’ve had time to listen to it, I feel like I know all the songs pretty well.

So while I started listening through the album, I didn’t *dislike* anything, really. Even if a song didn’t really stick, I could see myself getting to like all of them a lot. The ones that jumped out at me and that I really liked right away were Movin’ On, Circus, Gift, Shizuka Yoru ni, Mukae ni Iku yo, “Arigatou”, Kagerou, and Summer Splash. While those were my initial reactions, though, my opinion on them has altered a little over time. Here are some of my thoughts on each of the songs.

Disc 1

Movin’ On – Great way to start out the album. It’s catchy, lively, yet still kind of chill. There’s just a very recognizable “Arashi” feel to this song – it sounds just like something they would sing. I enjoyed the familiarity, though, and although I have a hard time pointing out particular points about it that are great, it was initially one of my favorite songs from the album, and I couldn’t stop listening to it.

Mada Ue Wo – This song is probably the most interesting one on the album for me. It’s just so different for Arashi! I actually had a hard time getting into it at first, but I just had to get used to the change and now I really, really love it. The chorus is fun, especially with the mini “battle cries” as I like to call them, and the Sakurap ended up being one of my favorite Sakuraps ever. I’m really glad that, while Arashi does have its own sound, they can really do something different every once in a while and have it work so well.

Refrain – I feel like this is a bit of a transition song within the album. It’s not bad, and when I listen to it, I’m enjoying it, yet somehow I find it a little forgettable. (It was the last song that I had trouble remembering the tune when I saw the title.) That being said, it’s still a nice, chill song, and it’s actually a lot of fun to sing along to, so I’d recommend learning the lyrics. XD

Troublemaker – I loved the music video for this. The stop motion was just so neat, and I really like the song too. It’s fun, upbeat, and really catchy. I’ve still yet to watch the drama it was for, but the song itself makes me want to watch it. It just makes you want to get up and dance, and it made a really nice addition to the album.

T.A.B.O.O. – Sho’s solo. Eheh. I can just hear the hip-thrusting he’ll be doing in concert. This song is kind of aggressive, yet aims to be sexy and fun. Sho’s solos always confuse me – they just don’t really seem to fit with the image I have of Sho himself. Still, I like the song…

Circus – This one I LOVE. In fact, it’s probably my favorite on the disc, and I knew it as soon as I heard it for the first time. Something about it reminds me of Tokei Jikake no Umbrella, which is one of my favorite Arashi songs ever. Dark and mysterious, yet somehow still quirky and fun. I could listen to it over and over, and love singing along to it. Fun stuff!

Gift – I’m not usually a huge fan when it comes to ballads, but for some reason I really enjoy this song. It’s sappy, light-hearted, yet still kind of powerful, and I really liked the orchestral parts of it. And the lyrics are just so effing cute~

Everything – I was surprised to see this song on here, I feel like this song is so old now! But it definitely didn’t bother me that it was there, as at this point it has an almost nostalgic feel. It’s pleasant and pretty; not particularly fantastic, but a nice song all the same.

Come Back to Me – Jun’s solo. At first I was just laughing at it, but honestly, I couldn’t help but really like this song. It’s really entertaining and just so damn catchy. At first I thought the use of autotune was questionable, but now I think Jun can actually pull it off. I don’t usually make a point of listening to Jun’s solos, but this one is definitely an exception!

My Girl – I really loved the drama that this was the theme for (which you can read about in my review of it), and this song consequently makes me feel so content. It’s a really cute song, happy but not too noisy about it. I might call it mildly forgettable – I’m not sure how much I would have really loved this song if it wasn’t for the drama. But still, it’s a nice change of pace, and fits in well with the rest of the album.

Magical Song – Aiba’s solo. At first I thought this song might be just too much, too silly, even though that’s usually to be expected with Aiba. But now I just think it’s incredibly catchy and really love it – it’s probably my favorite of Aiba’s solos. You know that really stereotypical twangy “asian-y” sound (totally don’t mean to be offensive here of course! I’m well aware that most Asian music doesn’t sound like that XD). That’s what this song sounds like. It’s just so fun and makes you want to dance around, and Aiba’s high-pitched “yeah!” makes me crack up every time. I can tell he would have a lot of time performing this in concert.

Let Me Down – This song didn’t pop out to me, but it really grew on me over time. It’s actually really fun to sing along to once you know some of the lyrics and I think it’s great to listen to when you’re walking somewhere. Something about it just makes you want to strut with confidence haha. (Maybe that’s just me!) The lyrics really confuse me, though… I can’t tell if they’re trying to say they want to break up or not break up. In any case, good song.

Disc 2

Monster – I remember when I heard this for the very first time, I wasn’t sure I liked this song. After a few listens I was getting used to it, and then the music video came out, as well as Kaibutsu-kun, the drama this was the theme song for, and I totally fell in love with both. It’s very different and dark, but still a lot of fun. It’s not quite as dark and dramatic as Truth, but still has a similar feel to it. I was happy to see it on the album.

Don’t Stop – This is another one of those songs that I just really like, despite there being nothing really special about it. It’s also one of those songs that once you know the lyrics, it’s really fun to sing along to – the chorus especially feels pretty powerful. The instrument choices were also interesting, and it’s actually a good one for going on a run. It just fits in well as another fun new song.

Shizuka na Yoru ni – Ohno’s solo. I find it really beautiful, but I have to say, it sounds exactly like the rest of his solos. I do wish he would try something a little different every once in a while; I feel like the continuing trend makes this song a little forgettable. That said, this was still a great song, Ohno sounds awesome as usual, and it was honestly one of my favorite songs of the album at first. I would love to see him perform this in concert~

Mukae ni Iku Yo – You can tell from very beginning with the harmonica bit that this is one of those cheesy, kinda depressing, yet somehow still a little uplifting type of songs. I really drew me in at first, and now it’s sort of blended back into the background. The chorus is pretty and fun to sing along to, and overall the song is pretty nice. It’s one of those songs that I don’t particularly feel the need to listen to, but I really enjoy it once I’m listening to it.

1992*4##111 – Nino’s solo. I have such a soft spot for Nino’s romantic little songs, and I love the fact that he writes them himself. The title is really bizarre, but there is a logic behind it – apparently if you type in those numbers and symbols into a Japanese AU phone, it spells out “ありがとう” (thank you). Isn’t that the just the cutest, nerdiest thing ever? (Just like Nino XD) I honestly think that the light-hearted, happy tunes don’t really match up with the Nino’s predominantly snarky image, but unlike Sho with his attempts at seductive songs, I feel Nino really, really pulls off the sweet and adorable songs. I will say that I usually prefer him to use piano or acoustic guitar, whereas this song has a lot of trumpets, and a… choir? Anyway, it’s not my favorite of his, but I still love it.

Sora Takaku – Finally this song ended up somewhere! I loved the movie this was the theme song of, by the way, so if you’re an Arashi fan you should definitely check that out! It’s pretty catchy and upbeat. Since this had never come out on a single or anything, I’m glad it was finally put on this album.

Kagerou – I ended up really loving this song. It’s powerful, with a good beat and great pace, it’s catchy, and fun to sing along to. I loved the piano and overall choices with the instrumental parts, and I felt like this song just fits really well with Arashi. It wasn’t happy-go-lucky, but definitely not dark or depressing either. Awesome song.

Summer Splash! – This song is so perfect for summer, which is when this album came out. I just imagined them all singing this at a beach party in their swimsuits. The verses are all very fast-paced (similar to Attack It! but nowhere near as crazy), so it was fun to listen to all of the members’ “raps.” The chorus itself was catchy too, and the “Ohhhh yeah!” parts are really fun. The whole thing just puts me in a great mood. Perfect way to end the album.

Sooo as you’ve probably noticed, I’m not exactly a harsh critic… But really, I did enjoy this album more than a lot of their albums. I just wanted to put out my opinion on everything, hope someone found this interesting! I look forward to talking more about music in the future. (^^)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Epic Journey of Summer 2010! Part 5 (Germany)

Sorry it took so long for me to post this! I just got the pictures so I'm ready to write. This will be the last part of my summer adventures, so thanks for sticking around!
After visiting Holland, we worked our way into Germany for a quick stop at a city that's very close to Belgium: Cologne (or Koln). This was the first time I'd been in Germany, and my first impression through this city was pretty good!

Cologne is Germany's fourth largest city and is known for (apparently) some crazy parties and celebrations, which we didn't get to experience, as well as this cathedral:

It was so big I couldn't even get a proper shot! As dirty and dark as it is, I still thought it was really awesome and beautiful. We first took a visit inside the church itself...

Some shots of the windows. I love stained-glass windows, they're so pretty to look at~

We decided then that we wanted to try to climb to the top of the cathedral, but first we took a quick walk around the surrounding area. One of the things that I think makes a city really beautiful is if it has a body of water. So going down to the river was really nice.

There were some pretty grass areas where you could have a picnic or hang around, and we saw this neat little rock structures that I found pretty.


There were all these pools of water with stepping stones, tiny streams and waterfalls. So quaint!

On our way back, we could see the cathedral poking out over the other buildings. Starting to get nervous about the walk up the tower...

Here's a shot of what I'm pretty sure was the train station! I enjoyed a lot of the architecture in Cologne.

We got back to the cathedral and it was finally time to climb that tower. Man was it rough. It wasn't the first time that I'd gone up hundred of stone steps in a tight, cramped twist of a space. But that doesn't make it any easier.

We made it to a large circular room that signaled to us that the worst part was over. The stone windows and whatnot were interesting (sorry that it was so hard to take pictures in there!) but that wasn't our final destination. We still had a metal set of staircase to go before reaching the top, but that was nothing at this point.

Looking up at the very point of the roof!

As rough as it was, the view did not disappoint. From so high up we could see so much of the city.

Definitely worth the climb!

Funny story on the way down, by the way. You don't feel the effort as much going down the stairs, so my pace was a little faster. Suddenly I notice that the tourists in front of me were speaking a very familiar language... They were Japanese tourists! This was the first time I'd ever seen Japanese people in Europe! They were these two guys, a little older than me, walking back down the stairs as well.

I wanted to talk to them and practice a little, but had no idea what to say and was too shy. I couldn't help but stay pretty close behind them, though, both excited to be able to hear the language and trying to come up with an excuse to talk to them. At one point, they stopped in the staircase fairly suddenly, and I accidentally sort of bumped into one of them. I reflexively excused myself in Japanese, and they both whipped around, looking at me and behind me in shock. They looked so intense that I was too embarrassed to say anything else haha (d'oh!) They probably thought they were hearing things because they just kept going...

I never got the courage to say anything else to them. But I was disappointed in myself for not just throwing myself out there and I learned my lesson - next time I noticed a Japanese person was near me, and forced myself to be courageous and trying talking to them. It went great, and I'm actually friends with them now!

Anyway, that's my small taste of Germany with the city of Cologne. And that ends my epic journey of summer 2010! I've actually been back in the states for over a month now, and so I quickly learned how hard it was to blog while abroad. But I'm glad I was able to take some pictures and share some of my experience for you guys.

Looking forward to new adventures! :D

Friday, September 17, 2010

Drama Review: Last Friends

Whoooaaa. This drama is inteeense. I hadn’t heard much about this previously, but from the little impression I had gotten, I didn’t think it was something I’d be interested in. A friend of mine was actually the one who really wanted to check it out, so I watched it with her. I ended up really loving this drama, even though it’s completely different from any other drama I’ve watched. There are pretty tough themes at hand: abuse, homosexual/transsexual identity, rape. While it is a very serious drama and it does have its crazy moments, however, generally I wouldn’t say it’s completely dark and depressing throughout. There were a lot of laughs, a lot of gasps, and it was an overall enjoyable watch.

Michiru (Nagasawa Masami) is a girl who has a rough home life with her mother and decides to move in with her beloved boyfriend, Sousuke (Nishikido Ryo). Around the same time, she runs into an old high school friend of hers, Ruka (Ueno Juri), a tomboyish girl who is living with her cheerful friend Eri (Mizukawa Asami) in a house together. Michiru’s move in with her boyfriend does not go as smoothly as she would have hoped, as he proves to be both mentally and physically abusive. Meanwhile, Takeru (Eita) enters into the picture, a kind and gentle – and seemingly homosexual – guy who has a dark past of his own. Through twists of circumstances, Takeru, Michiru, and Emi’s friend Ogurin (Yamazaki Shigenori), all end up living together with Ruka and Eri. But the drama isn’t over yet – Sousuke has not given up on Michiru, Ruka realizes that she is in love with Michiru, and overlapping love triangles arise in this emotionally intense story.

I was impressed by many of the actors, namely Ryo and Juri. They had tough characters to play, and they weren’t too dramatic with their personas while still being effective – in fact, I believe they were the only two who got acting awards for this drama, and I definitely agree, as their performances were great. The characters all had nice chemistry, which is very important as this drama is primarily about friendship (hence the name). The plot was very interesting and the storytelling was great and kept you hooked. The serious themes were a nice change of pace from other dramas I watch, and I liked the fact that there were also many happy moments in the series to balance it out.

Sometimes I couldn’t stomach the drama very well as it occasionally went overboard and became unnecessarily melodramatic. Michiru annoyed me a lot; not only was her character generally weak and irritating (the way she would let her boyfriend treat her at the beginning got ridiculous and wasn’t believable to me), but I didn’t find Masami’s portrayal of that particular character very good either.  I have nothing against her, and I do like her in other stuff, so I think it’s mostly the character of this particular role that was the problem. There were many exiting, tense scenes that were very effective, but sometimes it got so dramatic that I had trouble taking it seriously. Not all parts of the plot were played out to the end or explained fully, which always irks me, and while there were some aspects of the ending that I really liked, there were other aspects I wasn’t really satisfied with. While the negative aspects are a factor to consider, however, they didn’t really get too much in the way of my enjoyment of the series.

Ultimately, I feel this is a very particular drama that wouldn’t appeal to everyone but was very well made. The characters and plot were very good, the acting was solid, as were the visuals. I usually like happier or funnier dramas and thus I’d want the serious ones to be exceptional for me to enjoy them, and while Last Friends wasn’t perfect, I still feel it met the mark, and do recommend it if you enjoy its genre.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Tweet Log 9 (April/May)

Continuing my story through tweets... start at the beginning here.

Go back to part 8.
Go forward to part 10.


I also successfully made croquettes (korokke) last night! Two new recipes in one day~ :D

Blog Post: Another way to view Japanese material

Finally watched the Kurosagi movie and thus finished the series!! It took, what, 2-3 years? O.o

Just finished watching Mr. Brain! I'm surprised by how much I liked it XD

Just started watching Sunao ni Narenakute (the drama that's about Twitter..?!) So far, I'm really intrigued! (And yay for Jae Joong <3)

School has definitely been piling up and exams are approaching, so it's been harder for me to be active online. Can't wait for summer!

I finally actually watched the last episode of Arashi no Shukudai kun. So sad ;_;

Watched the first episode of Kaibutsu kun and was pleasantly surprised! I thought it was really funny~

May Tweets

Just made pan-fried lemon chicken and Japanese-style stewed eggplants. I can't wait to write about all my cooking adventures! XD

You may have noticed already, but I'll probably be pretty inactive for a little while now - it's crunch time in college world!

Blog Post: Cooking Adventures - Croquettes (korokke)!

Haha, of course the day I say I'm too busy to do anything is the day I put up a new blog. I should go on hiatus more often!

Just finished (re)watching Minami kun no Koibito. Cute show~

College is on break and it gives me a little time to breathe! SRSing it up :D

I went down from a backlog of over 600 to less than 300 in just a couple of days. やった〜! ^o^

Getting back into learning new kanji. I really want to finish Heisig's first book this summer! Let's see if I can do this! :D

Also working on a new blog post. Expect it later today!

Blog Post: Drama Review of Yukan club!

Just finished Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge... what a weird show... XD

My sister's graduating today! Yaaaay! Busy busy~~

Backlog's GONE! Right now I'm at a pace of ten new kanji a day, hope to push that to twenty soon~

Friday, August 27, 2010

Epic Journey of Summer 2010! Part 4 (Holland)

So this blog's about the second part of my trip in Holland! After Amsterdam, we spent a day taking a tour of the countryside that include all the local specialties. Everything was so beautiful and quaint - I really enjoyed it!

They don't call it the land of the windmills for nothing! We saw so many of them, and apparently they serve all different kinds of purposes, such as grinding grain or pumping water. We also saw a lot of more modern ones that convert wind into electricity. They're all over the place!

Our first stop was at a small village that had a small but wonderful tourist attraction: a cheese factory.

It wasn't a very big cabin at all, which just added to its charm, and you actually get to see cheese being made!

The cheese is being melted and churned in that big tub. Lining the shelves are dozens of giant wheels of cheese. It was a pretty impressive process.

And, of course, my favorite part... was samples! I really love cheese in general, but this was something else. Everything was so deliciously rich and creamy, and there were so many different flavors to try out. I think one of my favorites was this smoked cheese, which in the picture is the sausage-shaped one. I was in heaven~

We also got to take a little walk around the village, which was very cute and traditional. There were lots of goats and cows and everything was so green! (This is actually where it started raining a little bit, but honestly, the fact that the weather wasn't too fabulous that day didn't really take too much away from the experience. Everything was still so beautiful!)

Our next stop was a slightly larger town that was right on the cost - I guess a fishing town of sorts? We walked through the streets in order to reach the water. This was a nice little walk in and of itself.

We got to the port and were able to look at the boats for a little bit.

Then we got some lunch from the small stalls along the side of the water. Food straight from the sea! I got some sort of combo that had fish, mussels, shrimp, and so on. I'm not a big fan of shellfish, but I really wanted to try a variety of what they offered! Most of it was fried, so it was kinda greasy, but still very tasty~

After that we were allowed to walk around and shop or whatever until our next little journey. We looked around for some souvenirs and clothes (there was even a place where you could dress up in traditional Holland garb and take pictures!), but we were more interested in visiting the town itself.

There were canals crisscrossing all over the place, and the houses were all sort of squished together -  these small streets were so quiet and pleasant and pretty.

Kitty! We saw this guy a couple of times, and while he did meow incessantly, he wasn't as angry as he looks here XD



Walking past the houses, we were basically in their front yard, everything was so close together, and got to see lots of cute makeshift gardens. The architecture is very typically European and was nice to look at too.


Nice little church! Also, I couldn't get a clear picture of them, but there were a lot of ducks swimming around in the canals too. I love seeing ducklings trailing after their mother X3 

It was then time to leave, and we went from this town to a small island by boat.

Here's the shot through the window of the boat. Bye-bye, port town!

When we got to the new island, we came to a town that had ridiculously narrow streets. The whole group was practically walking in a single file line, and we could literally just look straight through people's windows if we wanted to. It was so tight and crowded (plus the line was constantly moving) so that I couldn't really even get a picture of anything. It was really cool to see all the houses up close though!

And then, on the other end of the village, we came to our last stop: a shoe-making factory. You know those typical wooden shoes from Holland? Well we got to see how they were made. 

Like a cheese making factory, this was also in a very small building, but we had a lot to see. There were shoes everywhere - both completed and still in-process. 

Here's the worker showing us how it's done. See those rows and rows of shoes above him? While I'm sure the shoes were made by hand a long time ago, now they're made with these really interesting (and loud!) machines.

The shoes were cut, sculpted on the outside, then the inside, and smoothed out. There were wood chips flying everywhere and it was really fascinating to watch a shoe being made, start to finish, in a matter of five-ten minutes.

And that was the end of our trip! We took the tour bus all the way back to the city and went back to the hotel tired yet content. I really felt like I saw a lot of Holland, both the key city of Amsterdam, as well as its rural areas, and truly fell in love with the country. Definitely wouldn't mind going back (and having some more cheese!)

The last blog post will be about a quick stop that we had in Germany. My tales of my summer journey will soon come to a close. Hope you're finding them interesting!~