It’s a New Year – Regrets and Resolutions

I started 2016 with a bang – meeting new people at my friend’s annual New Year’s Eve party, getting a little too excited, drinking too much, losing my gloves and my phone, going to bed with the room spinning, waking up to the sound of my mum yelling, and then (literally) picking up the pieces. Probably not that different to the average Brit’s New Year, to be honest.

January’s almost over already! Blimey, time flies by faster and faster the older you get. There was no white Christmas this year, and this winter has been pretty mild (save for ‘Storm Frank’ and the UK floods), but it FINALLY snowed a little bit over the weekend. Not a huge amount, but enough to cover the ground and look like a festive, magical blanket hiding all the ugly bits.

I had my January exams over last week. They didn’t go terribly, but they didn’t go brilliantly either. I submitted an essay on ‘women and violence’ in Le Morte D’Arthur (by Sir Thomas Malory) for one of my English modules, which was pretty substandard, I’m sad to say. But my semester of Medieval Literature and Arthurian Legends is over now. They were highly interesting, but unfortunately not subjects of English that I was particularly gifted in. Hopefully that will change when I start the new semester with Literature of the Romantic Period and Japanese Film & Literature.

As soon as my last exam was over I got on the train and went to go visit a friend down south who I hadn’t seen since before my year abroad in Japan, and we had a great time catching up, exploring the city, eating junk food and watching the new Star Wars again, this time in 4DX at Cineworld. The movie was enjoyable (obviously), the 3D was okay (I’m not crazy about it) and SOME of the 4D effects were great.

The good effects included the motion seats that would move and vibrate along with the camera pan or spaceships flying, and some strobes that lit up whenever there was an explosion, along with some wind and a bit of water splashing when in rain. The vibrations from clashing light sabers were also a pretty nice effect. Other things, like these little whooshing bursts of wind that erupted from my headrest and spurted past my ear whenever the Stormtroopers fired their blasters, were not so great. It felt like there were actual bullets whizzing past my head by a hair’s breadth and it made me want to curl up under my seat and take cover.

And now here we are, with me finally having a bit of free time after a grueling semester. It was hard work, and I got sick and stressed out a lot more than I did in Japan, but I was much more productive and efficient in my studies and entering societies than I was when I first began university over two years ago. At the same time, I seem to have turned into a bit of a social recluse. Whenever I didn’t have to go to class, I would shut myself away in my room and not leave except to eat or go to the bathroom for days on end. And by the end of my hermit retreat, I would get anxious when the time approached to leave my cave and interact with other people. I also had on-off bouts of intense nihilism and depression. But for now, mentally, I feel quite healthy and at ease.

When I visited my friend this weekend, he mentioned he hadn’t seen any artwork or internet publications by me in a long while. He’s working now, with a 9-5 job in the city, but he says he still tries to keep up with his art at least once a week, and that’s inspired me to want to produce more stuff despite all the work I have to do as well. I thought about starting drawing again, and wondering where I could publish my drawings, then remembered I could still use this blog as a place to keep it all linked. I don’t really use Tumblr, deviantART, Flickr, or any of those. And I hate starting new accounts just to let them gather dust when I lose motivation. So here we are: new cover photo, new profile picture. Feel free to follow me on Facebook and Twitter, too.

So, regrets of 2015:

  • I don’t think I completely made the most out of my time in Japan and there are still so many places I want to visit and friends I want to make.
  • I didn’t budget carefully enough and ended up owing my mum a lot of money which I’m still paying back. Luckily I still have that Skype tutoring job (which is going great, by the way).
  • I didn’t work as hard as I could have and this is still a problem I’m facing back in British university.
  • I didn’t make a big deal out of my 21st birthday back in September. That’s not a HUGE regret, and I was too exhausted at the time to have a huge party, but I think in 2016 for my 22nd I’d definitely like to try inviting all my friends around.
  • I can’t go to California this year after all. One day I hope I can.
  • The disaster that was New Year’s Eve. I’m not drinking at all this month and after that I vow to limit a night’s drinking to four drinks only.


And my resolutions for 2016:

  • Drink less, eat less, sleep more, exercise more
  • Do all my homework on time and keep up with assignments
  • Read for leisure, not just for my degree
  • Do an internship in Japan this summer (in the works!)
  • Visit family and friends more
  • Travel a bit around the country and get to know the UK a bit better
  • Be creative and use this website to enhance my artwork and writing skills
  • At the same time, try to work on my internet addiction
  • Plan ahead for people’s birthdays so that I can give them great presents
  • Learn a new skill – I’m studying Korean at the moment, but I think I’d like to learn to drive in my final year of university so that I can work towards getting an international license and then be able to drive in other countries.


Happy New Year!

NIN pp


Day 85: Start of the Korean phase?? :0 火曜日・2014年12月9日

No matter how I look at it, that title looks weird. But I’m not sure how else to phrase it.

Well first off, Tea Ceremony was a pretty cool lesson today. We actually tasted tea, for one. So far we’ve been doing theory, and last week we learned how to walk around in the tatami room and learn how to open/close a sliding door properly. Today, we observed the teacher correctly handling the (incredibly intricate, ornate) tea sets, properly warming the pot and cups, preparing the tea leaves, etc. The tea she gave us was quite bitter, but it tasted herby and refreshing, and I liked it, despite the weird taste. Mind you, I did have chewing gum in my mouth at the time.

My room was a terrible mess so at lunch time I came back and tried to make it so I wasn’t living in my own filth. It gets to a point where even I can’t stand it anymore. I talk like I constantly live like a messy teenager, when actually since coming here I’ve preferred to live in a neat, tidy space. But recently, I’ve been so tired, and just couldn’t be bothered cleaning up. It accumulated until I could barely see my carpet anymore, and my little ¥500 table was buried under a mountain of useless items.

I’ve learned to love taking out the trash. There’s something very satisfying about tossing the rubbish bags to the far end of the disposal garage. It stinks, of course. And the Japanese are so finicky about you separating the labels from the plastic bottles, when they apparently just go and burn most things anyway. That completely upturned my expectations of Japan having environmental standards. I already knew they wasted a lot more packaging than the average European country, but knowing they burn all their paper, which is so easy to recycle, made me really taken aback. That has to be wrong, that just has to.

Our compulsory lesson was quite good, because it was about Japanese history, specifically modernization. That’s one of my favourite areas of Japanese studies. Surpringly, I always hear Japanese people my age don’t have much interest in history. Sometimes they say specifically Japanese history holds no interest to them, sometimes I hear just a lack of interest in history in general. But I think it’s pretty interesting, still. Just different. I’m also interested in the Jōmon period (circa 12000-300BC), because I’m interested in origins of civilization. It links to the bigger picture, like evolution, human nature, the history of life on earth, things like that. However my younger sister, who is majoring in History at university, has the opposite opinion. She has little interest in pre-civilized areas of history; she prefers her Greeks and Romans.

Britain was mentioned quite a lot in that lesson, because it was mainly Britain, along with France and the USA (and Russia, to an extent) which helped stimulate Japanese modernization. I was asked what kind of identity Britain has, and I replied that it’s a tea-loving nation. (Which isn’t just a stereotype; it’s statistically accurate. We drink the most tea per capita than anywhere else in the world – 2.5 times as much as the Japanese.)

It occurred to me that a lot of what Britain is known for and loves actually originates from other countries, and yet at the same time it makes it MORE British because it’s borrowed. Tea, for example, we get from China and India. That fact alone is a reminder that Britain used to be the centre of the world, in its little empire. It’s probably not the nicest image to hold to Britain, that it steals its culture from other places. Even now, when I’m asked what I usually make for dinner… it’s rarely something inherently “British”. I cook spaghetti, and stir-fries, and takoyaki…

When I went to the cafeteria to meet up with Yuko, my tutor, she said there were some Korean girls upstairs who were singing/ playing instruments, and did I want to go. It would last less than an hour, and our tutor sessions are usually nearly two hours. And there would be food, so of course I said yes. I don’t have much experience of Korean food.

We went to go meet her Korean friend first, who was really friendly. She didn’t speak much English, so I tried my best in Japanese, and she taught me a little Korean. All I could say in Korean before was “Annyeonghaseyo” (“Hello”).

NOW I can say:

제 이름은베스입니다 (je ireum-eun beseu imnida) My name is Beth. 

맛있는! (mas-issneun!) Delicious!

감사합니다 (kamsahamnida) Thank you.

So far I find it really difficult.

But a lot of people I know, like Rachel, start off interested in Japanese culture, and then morph into Korean, which is why I’m wondering if this is the start of me getting into their stuff? So far I know some K-Pop bands, and I want to go to Seoul, and I like kimchi, but I don’t really know anything about Korea. I should change that.

I know more about Pyongyang than I do about Seoul, which is also somewhat worrying.

When we sat down in the music room (where there was a really nice piano), we were given jijimi (Korean spicy vegetable pancakes), and they were pretty delicious. I would eat them again. I know there’s a lot of Korean bbq places in Osaka, apparently. I should get Rachel to take me.

Before the singing, one of the Korean girls played the violin for us. I got all excited when I saw the violin, as I used to play it. Both my sister and I gave it up, but my little brother still continues to play it, and he’s easily surpassed us both. That’s a thought: parents, if you are reading this, maybe you could take a video of my brother playing the violin? That’d be nice. Or play it over Skype on Christmas.

The violin performance was… not gonna lie, it was painful.

Even I could play better than that, and I haven’t played the violin in eight, nine, ten years?

She had a nice vibrato, which I never got the hang of as I gave up around the time I was at the level to attempt it. But it was all completely out of tune, screeching at points, and the bow scratched the strings in the most unsavoury way. It took every ounce of concentration I had not to screw up my face and wince. There’s not much worse than bad violin playing. Maybe Chinese water torture.

That sounds harsh, but I really wasn’t expecting her to be that bad, and boy, was I proved wrong.

The singer, on the other hand, truly was an amazing singer. She sung in English, Japanese, Korean, even in Spanish. The only slightly worrying thing was how strongly she preached Jesus. Even in England, arguably a predominantly Christian country, doesn’t preach Jesus as much as this girl was doing. I don’t think even British churches preach Jesus that much. That’s one difference I’ve noticed between British and American Christians; Americans tend to mention Jesus a whole lot more than British people do. I think British people tend to think of God and the Bible, whereas Americans tend to talk of how much Jesus Christ has changed their life. That’s merely the conclusion I’ve come to; if you disagree, let me know.

Particularly in Japan (and in Korea, too, though not to the same extent), people don’t follow any religion. Even Buddhism and Shinto are just there for traditional rituals like in festivals, rather than inspiring a belief in some kind of deity. So for someone Korean to be that committed to Jesus Christ is a little unusual, or at least, it was a little surprising to me. That’s not to say they don’t exist, but I didn’t expect to meet a Korean Christian while I was here.

Yuko afterwards expressed concern. She used the words “cult” and “brainwashed”. (I’m sorry if you’re Christian and reading this. But I come from a Christian background, and even I found it disconcerting in a way I couldn’t explain.)

Apart from a little talk about religion, we talked about the differences between Japanese and British “senses of humour”. Yuko implied the Japanese don’t refer to a “sense of humour” like Western People do. But if they had one, it would apparently be “masochistic”. I think that was a little too strong a translation. It’s jigyaku 自虐 in Japanese, and I think a nicer way to say it would be to “make fun of oneself”. Actually, I’m really not sure why I’m so surprised. The first word that comes to mind when I think about how Japanese people work themselves to death (karoushi 過労死) is definitely ‘masochistic’, so…

Tamaki was working at the kombini, so after my tutor session I talked to him for a little while (and he got me a free coffee, shh). It’s been ages since we talked. I also saw Rika in passing but she was hanging out with a friend. Every time I’ve bumped into her in the past few weeks I’ve only spoken to her for about ten seconds before she had to run off. It’s probably unintentional on her end, but I feel like I’m being avoided, and I wonder if I’ve done something wrong.

But anyway, Tamaki and I spoke for about half an hour… I can’t remember much of what we talked about. Our studies mainly, I think. And what I’d talked about with Yuko, about our “senses of humour”.

After that I came back to my dormitory, and boy, I was sooo tired.

I think I’ll attempt going to the Immigration Bureau tomorrow to apply for my work permit, so wish me luck.