Last Thursday I went out to do an all-you-can-eat 焼肉 (yakiniku: grilled meat) thing which was ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS. You essentially go into the restaurant, sit at a table with one or two burners in front of you, order the meat (pre-marinated/seasoned and ready to cook) and then you cook it at your leisure. It's an all-you-can-eat that's at a set price for a certain amount of
time, and that kind of thing is incredibly popular in Japan. Such a thing would probably never work out well in the US: There's too many regulations/health code stuff and I doubt the average customer would ever be allowed to cook their own meat in a restaurant :P By the time we left the restaurant the place was packed with everybody getting off from work and going out drinking/eating with each other. Socialization with co-workers is a huge thing in Japan, and you're pretty much expected to socialize/drink/eat with each other. It's a networking things as much as anything, and pretty well embedded into Japanese culture :)
Last Friday I went out drinking at a Japanese bar with 12 other Americans. Yes, there were 13 of us total. When we walked in and said there would be 13 of us we got some crazy looks, and they kept asking us if we really meant 13 or if we just couldn't
count properly. But once we got settled in it was a hell of a good time. I got a chance to sample a wide variety of Japanese food, and some of it I'm still not quite sure what it was. It was all really good though. We were all a bit drunk by the end of hanging out at the bar, which of course meant that karaoke sounded like a good idea... So we wandered in a group to a nearby karaoke bar (trust me, they are freaking everywhere. You can hardly go a few blocks without seeing one :D). I have some hilarious videos of karaoke, but I'm pretty sure my friends would hit me if I put them on the internet, so just suffice to say it was a great experience, and that karaoke is always better when you're drunk.
After that, I spent Saturday and Sunday studying my ass off. Going to bed late and waking up early to get a jump on studying so that I'd be prepared enough. Meh.
Well, I survived midterms. I think. They were a bitch, though. This Monday was the conversation test, and then today was the written midterm. Oh, did I mention that the written midterm was 3 hours long? Yeah, that sucked. Since they pretty thoroughly covered all the stuff from since classes started, there was an awful lot to do. I just barely had enough time for each section, but at least I wasn't too rushed. I have no idea how I did, and probably won't for a little while. We have to wait to do a one-on-one conference thing to get our results and a personal consultation thingy. At least that'll be helpful to a degree; I know where I'm weak, but having the teacher help me out with what specifically I do wrong and how to fix it would be great. The teachers here at KCP really do know their stuff, and I haven't met one who isn't insanely nice :P The courses are intense, though. They really don't let you slack in the long run, and the midterm reflected that with its good coverage of the stuff taught so far. The way midterms are set up at KCP is pretty simple: There is a separate conversation/interview test, and then a written one. The written exam is broken down into multiple parts with a break in between each. There was 作文 (sakubun: essay/composition), 聴解 (choukai: listening comprehension), 文法 (bunpou: grammar), and finally 漢字 (kanji [the complicated written characters]). Each section is given a chunk of time ranging from 20 min to 50 min depending on the section, then you would turn in that section of the test and be given a 10 min break before the next section. Given that each of those individual sections will get a grade at the end of the semester based upon your skill, it's nice to have them broken up into sections. It allows you to kinda feel out where you are and instead of seeing that you get an overall "C" for the class or something, you will be able to see that "Oh, I got an A in grammar, but a C in kanji. Maybe I should study more Kanji" or something to that effect. It's a pretty good system, and forces you to have to be at least competent in all areas because you can't count on an overall grade to compensate for the crappy sections. Each is plain to see.
I just got home from going out with some of my favorite friends (surprisingly, it's some of the Koreans and Chinese kids from class rather than many of the Americans although I do haveplenty of friends among the US students) to hang out and get some dinner and lament the midterm exams (nobody is particularly thrilled with them... no surprise there). We had a great time
together, and in the spirit of cultural and international exchange started trying to teach each other bad words in each of our languages :D That was the most hilarious thing ever, and I've learned that even if someone doesn't speak any English, they can probably still swear in it, haha. Sadly, I've already forgotten the Korean swear words I learned. I'm sad; I wanted to use them in class tomorrow to amuse the Koreans.
Thankfully, the crazy exam week is over now, and it'll slow down a little bit (not that it's ever genuinely slow though). This weekend the American students in the culture class will be taking an overnight trip to Kamakura. Kamakura is a very historic location in Japan, and has a lot of rich culture in it. It was the center of power/the shogunate government early on in Japanese history. Eventually the Kamakura Period (time when the Kamakura Shogunate was in power) ended when that shogunate was overthrown and Japan moved back into civil war (not that it was terribly peaceful during the Kamakura Period). Kamakura is also the place where the giant bronze buddha statue is. I'm sure everybody is familiar with that statue/has seen a picture on the internet somewhere. I'm looking forward to the trip. We're going to be staying in a traditional Japanese hotel and tour around a bunch of local shrines and temples. What's even cooler is that all I'll be paying for is my lunchs for Saturday and Sunday and any souvenirs I buy; everything else is already included in my tuition. I'm sure I'll come back with lots of pictures!