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From The Land of The Rising Sun #5: Soka University

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Long time no see… Right, I’ve been a little…well, the world isn’t busy and it’s definitely not lazy… Its been one thing after another after a hectic semester, then the Japanese Language Proficiency Test that I had been preparing for (and hopefully did quite well); I am finally free to resume my writing life after a pretty long break.

Speaking of Japanese, I was doing a series on the awesome trip I took to Japan, ranking my five most memorable experiences. There was Shibamata and its tranquility,  Osaka and its laid-back kind of vibe, Karaoke and how I gave them a taste of my skills and of course Hiroshima. These were just the one’s I chose as special, not that the other places were ‘thumbs-down’. Like Universal Studios was pretty awesome; I should do the roller coaster again. But what I’m definitely not doing again is the public baths. Hot water messes with my head; among other reasons…

So to crown it all was the experience at SOKA University, particularly when we met up with the Pan African Friendship Society (PAFS). Singing, dancing, chatting…it’s as if the language barrier never even existed. It was one of those moments you wish time would just… freeze; stay put for a while. For once I never felt nervous around strangers. We had just met but it felt like I had known each other from the beginning. At first I didn’t know why but I’ve been thinking about it for a while I think I know the reason.

I believe everyone should choose a path in life and follow it to the end. The path I chose was to try and do everything right and do it fully regardless of the outcome or what is expected. Of course I’ve been opposed and ridiculed for it; others have misused it, others have spat on it; at some point it seemed like a really stupid way of living.

Then I met them. Those Japanese students. Who were exactly the same. I was no longer the fool; I was an individual with a large heart and a wonderful soul. We didn’t talk about ideals. But what we talked about reflected them. For a change it was nice to interact with people without them trying to weigh you on some scale of some sort, or comparing what they have and what you have. When you’re in the midst of people whose hearts go out to others instead of their self-interests, you’ll know. When you’re in the midst of people who want to act more than they want to talk, you’ll know. When you’re in the midst of people who want to make a difference so bad that it actually hurts, you’ll definitely know.

That explanation doesn’t quite cut it, but I think you have a general idea. I should definitely meet them again; Hiromi, Miho, Koji, Ayako, Kaori, Masae, Masami, Hiroyuki….hontou ni, tanoshikatta.

Oh yeah, some of them are in the country; I’m planning on meeting them soon. I’m trying to think of something huge. Hmm…

And that concludes it!

From The Land of The Rising Sun #4: Hiroshima

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Part 4 is up and rolling…

On our way to Japan our sensei told us that we’ll have two days to remember and will have to remember for the rest of our lives. One of those days was the day we went to Hiroshima; it became the most touching day of our journey.

Maybe I should say this. You never really know how awful it is when disaster strikes and you get the news from the TV, radio, internet and the sort; it’s one thing to hear of it, it’s another to be at the scene. At first, arriving in Hiroshima you wouldn’t feel like anything major happened here, even if it was in the 1940s; but if you’re keen enough, you feel like no one ever wants it to happen again. What I’m I talking about? The Atomic Bomb of World War II.

We visited the museum and saw their exhibits; just by entering the main hall you can feel the sadness grip you. People already get overwhelmed and find it hard to continue to the exhibits upstairs because everything about it; the planning, the dropping of the bomb itself is horrifying. I’m on record saying, “…to think any human being would develop such a devastating device and drop it on people he knows nothing about or knows nothing of their families and not feel a drop of enpathy…” (that was on a radio interview at NHK radio, Swahili service); the things we saw there can shake you to the core. As in, people were literally ‘baked’ to death (temperatures at the surface hit 5000 degrees celcius) and not talking of the aftermath of the radaiation…

I know I don’t have the full details or I’ll never really know what happened during that war… But that was never the answer; and that never should be the answer to solve whatever it is higher ups want to solve. Life is precious; even if it’s fighting I think we should learn to respect our enemies. August 6th, 1945 should never happen again.

I believe everyone should visit there once… Allow your eyes to be really opened. War isn’t a joke.

That being said, Hiroshima is a nice place; they have there own style of Okonomiyaki; it’s one of the most peaceful places I’ve visited.

From the Land of the Rising Sun #3: Karaoke

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Right, part 3 and Karaoke could not miss in this list. Usually when I tell people I [can] sing it goes something like this:

“You can sing?”


“Really! Sing us a song!”

“Uh, no… ”

“Why? You’re shy?”

“The mood isn’t right…”

“Thought so.. You can’t sing.”

Yes I can sing. And I sang my lungs out at a Karaoke bar thousands of miles away from home, among friends I had just made the previous day! Did I make a fool of myself? That depends; if fools have fun then I guess I did! Now, if only I had a video…

So even now when I hear a song that was sung that day I get extremely nostalgic… Like Bad Romance, Mess of Me, We are (One Piece!) and a couple of others. Music is really powerful y’now…


From the Land of The Rising Sun #2: Osaka

First things first. I changed my room’s light bulb! Okay, that was to be second but I’m really happy; I don’t work well in white light and now that I have a more natural yellowish one, yeah! Then let me apologise for leaving all of you hanging on this series…won’t happen again. Computer trouble got ahead of me but I should be okay now.

I loved Osaka…still do; it’s like being in reverse Tokyo. You keep right on escalators, they have their own unique dialect; they are like rebels in a good, ‘youthy’ way. People are more friendly (I think)…more laid back I’d say than the guys up North. The Osaka castle is awesome…impregnable they say; I watched Samurai X (Rurouni Kenshin) as a kid so hearing about the Tokugawa Shogunate and the Shinsengumi in real life was a dream come true. I also tried my first roller-coaster at Universal Studios Japan. Yeah, that was something; I’ll call it ‘flying by force’, because three quarters of the time you’re barely even sitting on the chair. I met my cousins that side; that was nice… Oh, and also this super hot girl; … What was really weird was that I felt like I had been living there for quite some time; like I knew all the people around, the streets…  I fit in there quite easily! Yep, Osaka’s on my ‘places to re-visit’ list.

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From the Land of the Rising Sun #1: Shibamata

The two dudes are my schoolmate and Japanese lecturer

Shibamata was the scene for one of Japan’s famous dramas, “Otoko wa tsurai yo” starring Tora-san. His statue is just next to the train station entrance (Shibamata eki). And I just realised that I don’t have a photo of the statue….There is actually a museum that has stuff on that drama. If you walk past the museum you’ll reach the Edo river; crossing it takes you to Chiba. The boat taking people to and fro has been operational for quite some time; its known as Yagiri no Watashi. I remember sitting by the river bank on our second last day: “…Our last free day in Japan. Im at the river, after I horrendously miscalculated my spending and wasted like 250 yen. But the shopping for guys back home is done. I’m going to miss this tranquil, organised, happy, kind and entertaining country; Nihon…” 

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Then I just sat, taking in the view, the moment… I must definitely go back there. Once is not enough.

From the Land of the Rising Sun #0: Introduction


Sea of Clouds above Japan

Yoshi! Kimeta! (Ok! I’ve decided!)

I’m an IT student but I’m doing Japanese as a minor. And as is the case for other language students in our university, we were offered a chance to go to the country where they speak the language we are learning. So this April I had a chance to visit the wonderful country of Japan. That is one AWESOME country; friendly people, legendary service…and the food? Yes, that must have been heaven.

Anyway, it was one of the best holidays I’ve had….no, the best holiday of my life; I had super-awesome experiences and learnt a lot being in a place that’s totally different from home. I’ve decided to put up the top 5 experiences I had and hope that you can learn a thing or two from them. Some of the posts we’ll be in Japanese (with translation provided)… Look out for the five parts!

Exhaust-ed on arrival?

*Matatu – a van used for public transport.

Based on a true story,….most of it.

You know, we had a van once..a Toyota Town Ace to be particular; I think it was a ’97. It had the nickname ‘bushbaby’; I dont know why but it did sound like an animal; a hyena. It saved our skin very many times, because it could tell you when it was coming. It would squeak and giggle; it choked once, and its aubidle from 200 metres. That way we could turn off the TV and resume our homework before the old man walked in. We were never caught thanks to it, and so we almost cried when it was sold.

That’s just one of the many unroadworthy vehicles to ‘drive’ the roads of Ngumo. *sigh* the Route No. 33. I was once told that they were ‘miracle mats’ – *matatus, that were once written off and given a second chance on the road. I was really late one day on my way to school, and there was no time to choose a decent matatu. And the first one I see is being harassed by the police for he is blocking the road. The club is really poking his head but he cant seem to get the van out of the way. I move closer and I hear him saying , “lakini afuande hii gari hainanga reverse…” Thats to say, “But officer, this vehicle has no reverse…” ??? I’d heard of them once, never saw them actually but I was surprised they existed. A car with no reverse.

I boarded the next one. At least it looked like it could reverse. I squeezed my long legs between the rows of seats and stretched my hand out to open the window before a gust of wind stopped me. The window was wide open – rather it wasn’t there. I maintained my composure and as the vehicle started to move, rather noisily and jerkily – if I may say. I later understood that the van’s first gear wasn’t too well, so he had to jump it to second. And this matatu needed no speed governor (a law in Kenya); that would be the same as putting a ‘No runnning’ sign in a Veterans’ Home. Pointless

Then we went down a hill, and the back part of the van was really wobbling; the back left wheel was just in place – and it was threatening to get away. But what surprised me most is how the driver switched off the matatu not to save fuel, but to prevent the engine from overheating…I believed him; for it once happended. The cap of the radiator gave way and steam was released into the front part of the van. And the driver was the first to jump out. I lived.

About 700m from my destination, we were met by a major snarlup. Usually I would alight and start walking but I’m not really the enthusiastic type for school (no one is anyway) so I decided to wait. And the driver decides to overlap the cars ahead. Though, he kept pumping his foot on the clutch pedal; it would not engage. He depressed it like 15 times.  And before we knew it it engaged and the van jerked forward. But the time to react before he could fully depress the pedal and stop our vehicle from hitting the one infront was too small. And so we shattered the backside of this nice Toyota Vitz; i felt for it, and the owner, a 40 something year old mother taking her (hot!) daughter to school and evidently had problems of her own, came out like the devil from your dreams breathing fire and brimstone. I couldn’t blame her; the monster inside her that was waiting to come out…that’s when I remembered the song Monster by Skillet and giggled…and their attention turned to me. Damn

And so I was forced to take a side in the predicament and nodded like a thousand times to whatever they were saying; I actually can’t remember because I was busy making eyes at this gorgeous, beautiful..*ahem*… I alighted and prodded to school, tired..and I was 30 minutes late. Good thing the ‘raia’  (mutual friends who came to know one other by being late) were there, amassing their numbers to bypass the teacher on duty by stampeding through the parade grounds. It’s usually a 98% success..good enough though. And so I was forced to do another troublesome task. The crowd of high schoolers sped by Mrs. Ogenya, making a great deal of noise. It was imperative that I get away unnoticed. And as soon as i reached class I put my head on my desk, with my arms to cushion it, just hoping that the day would pause for a while. I think they knew. I wanted to be one of them. The clouds. So free… I was exhausted on arrival..

It’s just another day in a 33.

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