I've been at my host family's house for a day and a half now and it's going pretty well. I haven't been doing a whole lot besides playing with the cats, watching TV, and sometimes making conversation in Japanese, but it's not bad. I'm pretty tired though; I thought the late night of karaoke and sleeping in till 7 had fixed the jet lag but I'm lagging a bit. Two of their three sons, Daisuke and Yusuke (along with his girlfriend and six month old chihuahua) came home this weekend to visit. Tomorrow my host mother is taking me to a concert of some kind, so that could be interesting. Since not much of interest has happened in the past day and a half, check out a new batch of pictures and videos and some miscellaneous observations about things in Japan.
Oh! Already I thought of something that did happen today. I went with Nick to the green (colored, not eco-friendly necessarily) church at the end of the block. It was small, but they have an English translator... though I'm not sure who for as everyone there seemed Japanese. And actually, I should say they usually have an English translator, but today she was home sick. Still, the service was interesting and very similar to a non-contemporary American church service, though as usual, everyone removes their shoes at the door. I recognized some of the hymns and was able to sing along in Japanese. The syllabic nature of Japanese lends itself to hymns too; you could probably write any lyrics and be able to put them to any hymn's tune. There was also a responsive reading thing, but that went a little too fast to read along with. Everybody seemed to know each other, and even knew our host families who don't go to church. Almost everyone stayed after the service for a meal of udon noodle soup, which was very good.
While I'm writing this I'm watching this show that's as weird as ever, and they're modifying this old arm wrestling arcade game to do random stuff like hit a bell with a hammer, pull out peanut plants, and wash windows. Which brings me to Japanese television. There's surprisingly little of interest on TV. It's mostly talk shows and shows that seem to jump from one random thing to the next with overly silly-acting hosts. I saw a show earlier today that was about kids playing taiko drums one minute and about tasting food the next. On the talk shows, they often will cut to videos of other things, but they leave a small video of the hosts in a square in the corner so you can watch their reaction. They also have a habit of adding oversized and unnecessary subtitles for certain things and adding cheesy sound effects to everything in an apparent attempt to take any remnant of seriousness from the show. It's also common that at least one of the main hosts will talk in a particularly silly nasally voice, in fact, I think the guy that worked at the karaoke place also did this. On news shows, they usually have a clock in plain white font in the top left of the screen. And on commercials, if a song is playing they'll usually have the title of the song on the bottom when it starts. Also, while there are a few clever, funny, and unique commercials in Japan, most of them just throw in either cute girls or a cute animated character or both and consider it done.
We also went to the grocery store today and yesterday. For the most part it's just like an American grocery store only the whole thing is one big Asian food isle. There are lots of different vegetables, fish, seafood, seasoning, and sauces that you don't see very much in America. It's also common for employees to be standing around next to certain food displays and calling out into the crowd about what they're selling like someone selling popcorn at a sports game. Also, in grocery stores and other stores, there's usually a coin tray at checkout where you put your money, which is then counted and scooped up by the checkout clerk. I guess this makes the money easier to count and makes sure that you don't have to make direct contact. And finally, instead of bagging right next to the register, there are tables/counters a couple yards beyond them where you bag your own stuff (there are baskets to carry your things from the register to the bagging counter).
And there was the mall too, which was pretty big and had lots of clothes stores. I went with my host mother to an ice cream place that had really fancy and delicious looking ice cream, a long line, and had the employees sing and dance while making your ice cream. There were a variety of songs too and the the ice cream was extremely good. Check out the video.
Other things: everyone likes being fashionable, trash is divided into several categories and each is brought out on different days, and everyone eats really fast, I think it's a good thing to have "busy hands" and keep stuffing your face or at least appear to be constantly doing something while eating.