Archive for December 2009

Ancient Egypt in Japan. Not An Oxymoron.

December 21, 2009

So, while Waseda is indeed one of the best universities in Japan, Japanese uni students have mastered the art of BS-ing admirably well. It’s very inspiring. In general, they are much, much more interested in school club activities and preparing for the Real World than actually learning anything. They show up 45 minutes late (and still get attendance marks), sleep in class, beg for deadline extensions, skip classes for weeks at a time, and so on.

Anyway, this is great for the classes I don’t care about, but there was no way I was going to go through a WHOLE YEAR doing absolutely nothing in class.

For people who are interested in digging further, Waseda is a wonderful, very large university with tons of resources. One thing I’ve always been interested in is Ancient Egypt.

Incidentally, I interned for National Geographic in Washington DC last summer

So, I asked the Waseda professor of my English-taught class “Ancient Egyptian Civilization” if he could help me get involved in Egyptology here.

It turns out that this professor has completely taken me under his wing. I am not even kidding. Within the first hour I met him he was offering to write me a recommendation for grad school. He introduced me to the whole department here,  first of all. Then he got me attending his Ancient Egyptian history class (taught in Japanese) every Tuesday. I’ve become good friends with two future Egyptologists (students my age), been proofreading English in archaeological reports, and the department has got me learning how to trace reliefs and wall carvings for publication. I also helped out at the Cairo Forum 2009 at Waseda – definitely an interesting experience to be behind-the-scenes at one of those crazy formal functions in Japan.

Basically, I am VERY involved at the Institute of Egyptology here at Waseda, much more so than anything I’ve ever been involved in back at Georgetown.

Oh, and I’m actually learning Ancient Egyptian properly this time. I had taken a semester-long tutorial in it before and a few weeks of it in high school, but this time I am hardcore doing the homework and memorizing things like no other. Apparently my prof started teaching this class in the first place because I showed interest in it last summer. So… because of me… the whole department of Egyptology at Waseda is learning Ancient Egyptian. Pretty awesome.

I can read this... with a dictionary

The big question mark at this point is probably, “WHY, Natalie??” Why am I putting in so much time and effort, until 10 PM some nights, 4 classes a week, volunteering on top of that?

Well, I don’t think it’s for grad school. I don’t think I want to be an Egyptologist. I am also very interested in international marketing and that seems like a better career choice, plus I would hate to have to teach anything, be a professor, or dig in any sand. I am no academic. But ancient Egypt has always been something I’ve been interested in, and this is the perfect opportunity to really learn about it…. Believe it or not, it’s 100 times easier for me to study Egyptology in Japan than in America.

Plus, it’s amazing Japanese practice. Learning hieroglyphs, being exposed to and part of an authentic Japanese work environment, meeting so many professors and researchers – all in Japanese – is probably going to end up being one of the best experiences I’ve had in Tokyo.

Well, right now, they’re all in Luxor, Egypt doing their job, i.e., archaeology… but don’t worry, I’ll be working way too much again next month.

Ancient Egyptian-inspired soda released this fall. Marketing, Japan and ancient Egypt. All my interests together!


Tokyo Restaurant Edition, Pt. 1

December 3, 2009

So I’ve decided I want to blog about all the awesome food I’ve been eating here!!

I am basically obsessed with eating out, I love restaurants and couldn’t cook a meal to save my life.

That’s why it’s really a good thing that there are so many great eateries here. It’s probably not that good that when I don’t feel like going out I tend to just go to the convenience store and make do with grilled chicken pasta salads or baked cheese cake sticks. But in terms of restaurants, Tokyo is fantastic!!

I’ll start off with a few of my tried-and-true fav places to go for a bite to eat:

Brown Rice Cafe, Omotesando: vegan

Veggie Burger

I love this place in Omotesando. It’s tucked behind a shopfront with lots of European lotions/beauty/health products. I always go here and get their Veggie Burger, absolutely delicious! It can be really hard to find decent all-out vegetarian food in Tokyo but this place is really good. Anyway, at 1500yen for a meal and with drinks around 700yen, it can get pricey – but I love going to this place to unwind, enjoy a nice meal, maybe get some Egyptian homework out of the way. They also have delicious caramel macchiatos.

Kantipur, Shibuya: Nepalese

Delicious (and sublimely unhealthy)

There is a ton of quality Indian food to be found in Tokyo, but this place is my favorite. Hidden away from the street and run by a charmingly eccentric and sarcastic owner, coming here can be intimidating – but so worth it! I usually get the vegetarian curry, although their almond chicken and pumpkin and chicken (when they have it for a lunch special a couple times a month) are also really good. I prefer coming for lunch, although it’s really packed then with salarymen – that’s because you get a salad, curry, and the most delicious (unlimited) naan I’ve ever had, all for 900yen. Seriously, the naan is to die for: it’s buttery and SO GOOD. The waiters constantly come around refilling your plate with piles of it.

Nagi Shokudo, Shibuya: vegan

Hearty and healthy!!

Another delicious vegan option. I really love this place. 1000yen gets you 3 different dishes, miso soup and brown rice along with a drink. It’s never too busy and the atmosphere is lovely, with soothing music. Plus, it’s genuinely healthy and fills you up at the same time! I always get the kara-age veggie meat with chili sauce, avocado and tomato salad with tofu mayo, and pumpkin salad with the red shiso drink for after the meal. Mouth-watering. It’s also pretty hard to find decent avocado dishes in Japan, and this makes me happy every time I come. Incidentally, I was surprised to see that CNN just covered this restaurant on their Tokyo lifestyle site.

one plus one, Takadanobaba: cafe

Chicken Pita

This place is right across the street from me, and a very calm, quaint little cafe with really cheap prices. I get the smoked chicken and burdock pita sandwich whenever I go. It’s filling and only 480yen. Atmosphere is peaceful, and a nice break from the typically ramen-filled streets of Takadanobaba.