Sunday, August 19, 2007

Summer 2007: It began in Japan

I finished class at 9pm and had a flight to Japan the next day that left about 10 am. In that time, I had to pack up my room since I was subletting it out. With the time change and a 14 hour flight, I didn't worry too much about sleep and it all worked out.

Here are some highlight pictures of the trip:
Why am I so nervous in this picture?
Why are we clinging glasses of sake in celebration?
Why are her parents with us?

Why do we look like we are enjoying ourselves so much?

Yup, you guessed it. I am engaged. Am I not the luckiest guy in the world. :)

Did I mention that the whole thing was a surprise? Keiko didn't know I was in Japan at the time and really wanted us to go this festival. She emailed me the morning of the engagement and said I wish you were here so we could go. Little did she know, little did she know.
Taiko Drumming at the festival.

We did a few random things for fun while I was there. Swimming, onsen (hot springs), and this is when we went to “The Glass Village.” I’m making some glass stirrers with beads inside.

And we lived happily ever after.

There was a fun house there with all sorts of wacky things. We were just engaged so we pretty much had a blast everywhere.

This shark is just a painting on the wall but it totally looks like its pointing right at you.

Awww, funny mirrors. Simple pleasures…

It was really hard to keep balance in the tilted room, harder than you’d think.

In Japan, there is a formal dinner you have after getting engaged where the families come together and meet and have an exchange. I don't know the details, but since I already knew her entire family and my family was on the other side of the Pacific, it probably wasn't the same as most. But the food was great and look at that vegetable carving centerpiece the chef made!We went to this traditional Japanese restaurant with this crazy looking fish on a stick that looked like they just stabbed it.

With Keiko’s friends, we went to a baseball game to support the local Hiroshima Carp. Her friends are surprisingly avid baseball fans. It’s very VERY different from American baseball. You cheer your team when they are with incredible vigor as a big group with cheerleading trumpets and drums and are perfectly quiet when the other team is up.

There is a tradition for the Hiroshima Carp to blow up balloons and have everyone let them go for the 7th inning stretch.

Keiko, me, Chieme (her little sister), and her parents at church.This is Keiko’s older sister’s family and one friend. 3 kids in Japan seemed like a lot.

I had a kanji (Japanese character) writing contest with Keiko’s nieces. Perhaps I shouldn’t be, but I was proud to beat a 3rd grader. (The only reason I did is because Keiko has a Nintendo DS Game Boy game with a pen that reviews characters so I had some incidental practice… heh heh heh)

Keiko and her mom taught me how to make gyoza (dumplings/potstickers). So delicious…

We went to a Japanese zoo. The sign says “No feeding the humans.”

Engagement Details (I typed it up earlier for memories):

I showed up on a Fri night. Keiko’s dad picked me up from the airport and took me to the hotel. I was expecting a decent hotel, but it was possibly the nicest hotel in Hiroshima, the one next to the shinkansen station. I have to admit that it isn’t quite as exciting as far as the thrill of being in Japan itself as last time, but that might have been due to the fact that I was there to propose, not to visit Japan so to speak. The next morning, I woke up quite early and had a good 4 hours until I was meeting Keiko’s dad. So I did something I had been looking forward to for a long time, which was just going to a Japanese convenient store and getting an onigiri (stuffed rice ball) and melon bread.

I emailed Keiko that morning from the hotel. It was the best part of being in that hotel. I just sent a normal email asking how she was doing and that packing and everything had been really busy. She sent me a reply along the lines of “My parents are taking me out today. They won’t tell me where but told me I need to dress up nice and wear makeup. Anyways, I can’t wait until Monday.” I knew I had her.

I met up with her dad and showed up about 30 minutes early. I looked around and had to pick out 2 hiding spots. One so I could see that she had entered the gardens and another to see that she had approached the final spot. I was so incredibly nervous. Her dad was waiting with me and couldn’t see very well and mistook a lady for Keiko and I started to get super nervous but then it wasn’t her. I spent the whole morning sort of rehearsing what I was going to say. We dropped a map near the place I wanted them to stop and phoned her mom to tell her. And then she got there. The hiding spots worked well. I saw her mom taking a picture of her and started to descend to down from my spot to surprise. I heard she thought I was her dad at first but then realized I was too skinny. I didn’t necessarily care, but her parents ran off immediately. Then I totally forgot what I was going to say, or at least panicked enough that I forgot what order I wanted to do things in. I ended up taking out the ring before saying anything so the whole buildup was kind of shot.

I thought she might cry and be overwhelmed but she acted like she knew it was coming. She had a very composed response about how she accepted and was very happy to have this moment come. After I put the ring on, she spent the next 6 hours or so being flabbergasted at how she was tricked. Every time she asked a family member or even some family friends and that they knew about the whole thing and she didn’t, she had a look of shock on her face. She couldn’t believe it.

We went out for oysters and had an everything oyster feast: oyster salad, oyster soup, oyster rice, raw oyster. I think me eating the raw oyster put her parents at ease more. Even though I was a foreigner, if I could handle raw oysters, I could handle a Japanese wife.

In one of her previous emails, she mentioned that she wanted to go to this festival with me but it ended before I arrived. In actuality, I happened to arrive the day before the festival so the evening of the engagement we went to it, Keikoyukata. dressed in her It is one of my favorite pictures of Keiko. We ran into my home stay mom from the year before and some YMCA employees and showed the ring. I got to see some taiko drumming and went through a haunted house.