Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Stealing Wireless

I am typing this from a parking garage in Kakogawa right now. I have not been able to get internet and that has sucked, I move into my permanent place on Monday and should have internet then. People are looking at me weird so I need to take off. I am still alive and teaching is going really well. I will post more later!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Bored In Tamba

I am in a tiny town called Tamba right now and I don't start teaching for the better part of five hours. I am bored and jacking wireless internet from a place called You Me Town. It is the equivalent of Walmart in Japan I think. Either way, its a nice place and I will probably be here for another couple hours while people gawk at me on my laptop.

Tamba is a small town and this is the fourth day I have been here. I have been teaching in a classroom here and it has been a good experience. The classes have been well-behaved and the parents have been easy to deal with during their observation time. Tomorrow will be my longest day of classes and then it is on to the train station to return to Kakogawa. I have Sunday off thank goodness, I need to do laundry in a bad way. I will also take that time to explore Kakogawa a tad and maybe visit the nearby Himeji Castle. We shall see.

I got to meet most of the people in my group on Monday and they all seem pretty cool. It is kind of too bad in that regard that I will be so far removed from the group when I go to Fukuchiyama. Oh well, here is to weekend visits to the big city. :) I will hopefully get moved into my actual permanent apartment there on Feb.6th. That will be a nice birthday present, just one day early.

Anywho, I know I haven't posted in a while and that is largely because I have not had an internet connection. The one I am on now is not great but it will suffice for this post. I will try to post more upon my return to Kakogawa but it probably won't be until Sunday that I get to do this. Either way, I am not dead, just kind of in the middle of nowhere at the moment. :) Tamba is a nice town, its just small and not a lot to see or do here.

I will post more later when I find a more stable connection to the net.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

About Glenn

Glenn was the name of my trainer while I have been in Osaka. At first, I underestimated Glenn as a teacher but over the past couple weeks, I have realized that he is a really cool guy and he does indeed know what he is talking about.

I make this post because in a way earlier post I talked about how I doubted his teaching ability. I have no problem owning up to things when I am wrong and this is an occasion that I was indeed wrong. Glenn is a cool guy and an excellent trainer. He will never read this but I type this to keep myself honest. Okay, now I am going to start packing for tomorrow's trip.

R.I.P. Mp3 Hard Drive

Yeah, as Phyrry pointed out in her last comment, my hard drive with all of my mp3s died on me tonight and I am pretty sure the data is lost. I am going to try a couple things on it when I get settled in my next place but I am not optomistic about the chances of recovering them. This sucks but fortunately I have full backups with two different friends. The only thing that blows is now the backups have to be burnt to about 63 dvds and shipped to Japan. Yay!

Oh, the town I am in now is called Fukuchiyama. The full Japanese translation for the town's name is something like "out in the middle of freaking nowhere and removed from most signs of modern civilization". Of course, I made the translation so I may have lost something of the original meaning, though that is the gist of it, I am pretty sure. I am learning that there are some sweet upsides to being there though. First, I will never be called to cover other peoples' shifts because most of the time that would mean a two hour train ride. Second, my office days will be spent at the corporate Fukichiyama branch office, my apartment. Aside from lesson plan making and paperwork, the Fukichiyama branch office sports a bar and a good selection of DVDs to watch. As a team building excercise, I will make the employees watch the Simpsons quite often. Since I am the only employee, no complaints there.

Anywho, this may be the last post for a bit seeing I am unsure when I will have internet again. I will hopefully post tomorrow but no promises. I will update later as to my next spot and its furnishings.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Training is Over! More Confusion to Come!

I am not sure whether I should be relieved or wigging out. Yesterday, my official training with Peppy Kids Club ended. After the last session, everyone went out to a very nice dinner with our trainer, Glenn, and had much to eat. It was easily the best meal I have had here. I had a drink called a "chuhi" or I think thats houw you spell it. It is pronounced "chew high", either way, it is a good drink. It is sake mixed with either a Fanta or another juice of some sort and put over ice. I had a White Mango Sour and it was awesome....both of them. I also had raw horse, which I must say, was not too bad. It was a pretty bland meat with a texture that I can only compare to an extremely soft Play-Doh. Yes, I have eaten Play-Doh before.

After dinner, some of us went clubbing and some of us stayed at the hotel and watched a couple of hours worth of the Simpsons. I was in the latter group. The clubbing sounded tempting but the one thing you have to keep in mind about clubbing in Japan is this; if you want to club here, be ready to make an all night and early morning commitment. The trains stop running at midnight so if you do not have a club in your neighborhood, you will be there until at least 5am. As much as I wanted to go out, I did not want to be up all night. But that was probably my last chance to do that for a long while and I turned it up. Regretting it, a tad, but the Simpsons were good too.

Why would I not be able to go clubbing when I get to my new place you ask? Good question, the answer is a simple one however. When I got to training yesterday I was informed that I would not be moving to Kakogawa as planned. I will be moving to a place about two or three hours away from there and it is a pretty small town I will be living in. I can't remember the name of the town, it was kind of complicated and long but I do know it is out in the middle of nowhere. I guess the area is super nice but I will be the only teacher out there and pretty much isolated from everyone else. The nice part to this is that I will have less interference from trainees or other people in the company but on the flipside, I will be pretty much alone. Here's to making new friends! One upside is that one school I will teach at is about a five minute walk from my house. It will be hard to be late for that class. :)

Anywho, that is whats going on with me. I am becoming very accustomed to living out of a suitcase and getting shuffled around every couple of weeks. It is wearing on me but at the same time I am kind of getting used to it and I don't mind it too much. I just keep in mind that I did this whole thing to change up my life and with each new move comes new experiences that I would not have otherwise. The whole thing has been fun so far and I doubt that will change. I like how everything is new to me and how with each day comes new happenings, it keeps me on my toes and on the lookout for new places to explore here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

An Update

This week has been pretty busy and I really haven't felt like posting on here due to the amount of time I have been doing other things and I am generally pretty worn out by the time I get back to my computer to type something in the evening.

On my days off, I went to Den Den Town again and took pictures. I will post them later when I make a more in depth entry solely about Den Den Town. The place rocks, bottom line.

I also went to Kyoto with some of the people from my group and we went to a temple site and a Zen monastery with a rock garden. The temple we went to was named Kinkakuji and it is the site of the Golden Temple. In all of my travels and all of my life, I have never been to a more serene and calming place than Kinkakuji. Whenever I get visitors, I am taking them there. It is like a vacation for the soul. It was simply amazing, I don't know what else to say other than the fact that I think I am a better and more rounded person just by simply visiting this place. Below is a picture that I snapped of the Golden Temple and one other that I took of some people praying at a shrine that was on the site, I loved this place.

In other news, I got my inkan the other day. An inkan is basically a stamp that, if you were Japanese, would have the kanji for your family's name on it. You use inkans when you deal with contracts or banking. They are essentially, your personal signature. In Japan, your signature is not legally binding like it is in the United States. The onl thing that will fit the bill is your inkan. They are pretty cool and mine has my first name in katakana on it. I will take a picture later and show it off.

I also found out today that essentially, as long as I am doing a passable job and am not a horrible teacher, I will be able to stay with the company and in Japan as long as I like. I figured I would at least stay one more year after this one so long as I am happy here when that time comes. I may stay on for a few more years, I like it here.

Anywho, that is pretty much the ballgame for right now. I will post more tomorrow probably. I teach two more classes tomorrow so that should be fun. I will write more on that later.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Weekend, Finally!

I have never been this anxious for a weekend to get here as I was today. It has been a hard week and I am ready for a rest. Tonight, a bunch of us are going into Osaka to a club called Pure tonight. Pure is a $35.00 cover but once your in, all of the drinks are free....FREE. This is not just beer, this is EVERYTHING! YES!!!!

So we are doing that tonight. It should be fun and a good way to relax after a really long week.

Hehe, so as I was typing just a second ago, I hear some of my people in the hall talking about a fire so I went to investigate and evidently, one of the girls plugged in her hair straightener and it burst into flame. Upon shorting, it blew the fuse for her room and another next to it. I think its safe to say, the voltage didn't match up. :)

Anywho, I will post when I get back in tomorrow morning. Have a good night, I know I will.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Den Den Town and More

I am going to start by warning everyone that this post is going to be all over the map because I have lots of stuff to show and tell. First, thanks to all for the nice comments and emails over the past couple of days. I appreciate them and they helped me out. I am in a much better mood today.

As the title may suggest, I went to Den Den Town this evening. Den Den Town is the second biggest electronics market in Japan behind Akihabara in Tokyo. This probably makes the area one of the largest in the world. Training finished early today and so I figured I would trek over to Den Den and see what it was like and if I should make a longer more dedicated visit on Sunday or Monday. The answer, is a resounding yes. I did not bring my camera with me for the trip so when I go again in a day or two I will take pics.

Let me say this, take the biggest electronics store you have ever been in, like a Fry's for example. Now multiply that store but 15 or 20, add in some obligatory porn, and a bunch of very Japanese kiosks, and you have Den Den Town. It is one of those places that if you are a nerd, you just have to see to believe. Den Den Town is named as such because the Japanese word for electric is "denki". There are stores there for everything, robotics, CPUs, cell phones, video games, porn, more video games, old video games, TVs, everything, name it. I bought a miniature model of a Gameboy Color with model games that go in it from a vending machine there, its so friggin' tiny and cute. There are stores there for just trading card games and toys. There are stores for every major electronics manufacturer in the world. There is everything. When people come to visit, we WILL be going to Den Den Town.

Next, I will talk about Takoyaki. Takoyaki are little balls made from bits of octopus mixed into a pancake-like batter and fried in special little skillet things. I first heard of these from playing Katamari Damacy and rolling them up. I thought they were little candies or pastries but they are actually little fish ball things. They are actually quite tasty too. I watched the lady make a batch from start to finish and the process is kind of cool.

Below is a pic of what the takoyaki look like while cooking. Notice the little thing in which they are cooking. They are made from cast iron and have a bunch of little semi-spheres in which to pour the batter.

After the batter has been cooking for a minute or two she will add bits of octopus to it. They sink down into the batter and make the nice center for the snack. She then spreads what I think was cornmeal over the top and then after a minute or two starts to rotate the balls in their mold to let them cook evenly. After several minutes of rolling the balls over and over in their molds, they start to turn a golden brown color and that is how you know they are getting done. I bought a batch of ten of them for $3.00 and shared them with some of the people from my group because I had told them all about takoyaki and wanted them to try it. This is what they look like all cooked and packaged for me.

They were yummy and come glazed in a variety of sauces, mine was in soy sauce. Takoyaki are not found everywhere in Japan. Each region has its own special food and takoyaki is cooked only in the Osaka region for the most part. The people here are quite proud of it and now I know why.

I spoke in an earlier post how I liked the streets of Osaka and how they were narrower and busy than those of Nagoya. Keep in mid that the pics below are of the area by my hotel and may not be this way all over Osaka. The downtown area for example is quite modern. Either way, this is what the streets around here look like.

In the above pic, if you look at the old guy standing next to the bike on the left side of the frame, that is where the takoyaki stand is at. He bought 40 of them before me. And if you look at the car driving down the street, that is not a wide car, that is a very narrow street. Here is another pic.

In other news, the people in my group are starting to get pretty tight knit I think. I came home this evening and Reid was about to put a note under my door, telling me he had a surprise for me. Reid and his fiance, Carrie have been very cool. We have gotten along since day one and I will miss them not being close to me when we all split up. Anywho, they found me milk and Nesquik chocolate milk powder. They rock, I have been dying for chocolate milk all week and they made it happen. They also let me have a blister pad for my foot. All of this walking is wearing my feet out. They rock.

Tomorrow, I teach my first lesson and it should be easy. The kids are about eight years old and I am pretty well prepared. I have already been to the class they are in and so I know how to get there without much hassle. It should be fun, I will post later to let you know how it went. Anywho, I am going to take off now, this post has gotten really long. Goodnight!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


I will now make a correction to the last post, my trainer has indeed heard of multiple intelligences. I just finished talking to him about it; I did not give him enough credit and that is my bad. I don't mean to sound cocky when I talk about my training and whatnot, it is just that I have done all of this stuff before in much greater detail and most of the material is review for me. I am not a fan of reviewing stuff, but whatever I have to do, right?

Anywho, I do not mean to come off like a know-it-all because I am not, I think I have just had a lot of information come at me in the past few days and I am starting to get overloaded.

Being Lazy

I am starting to get tired. My workdays here in training have been on the average of 12hrs each day and it is starting to get to me. I am starting to get a tad irritable and short tempered. I do not think the rest of the people in my group are doing much better....we all just want to get to our actual apartments and make a home for ourselves.

Today, we got finished with everything earlier than usual so we got back to home around 7:30pm. I went to Matsuya to eat and then wandered around a bit. I did this alone because I think I am starting to get annoyed with doing everything with the group all of the time, there are just too many people to worry about pleasing and keeping track of.

I like Osaka. I think if I wanted to, I could vanish here and no one would know. I find this strangely appealling. People here are nice but at the same time they are all doing their own thing. And nobody knows me. This is also nice. I like to go in and out of shops and just walk without hearing anyone call me or have a cell phone ring. I am seriously contemplating not getting a cell phone though in the end, I probably will. I don't think too many people will call me on it anywho and it is nice to have in case of emergencies.

I will teach my first class on Friday, this should be entertaining. They are eight year olds so I am not too worried. The rest of the people in my group seperate into two camps on the issue of actually teaching a class. The first group is terrified of it and are doing a lot of worrying at the moment. The second group, that I belong to, doesn't really give a damn because we are starting to realize that the stuff we are being shown is not difficult and the classes are not that challenging. The trainer is starting to realize that I am bored I think. I am participating in class activities and all but the material is way too easy to be concerned about. He is starting to ask me more questions about how I would do things differently in actual school situations and I think he has been liking my feedback. I think he is starting to wrap his head around the idea that I really should be doing his job. Hopefully soon, I will be. There are no openings that I know of but he has said positions become available al the time.

Today, we were talking about teaching to multiple intelligence levels and responses. He didn't call it that and I am not sure he even knows that that is indeed what he is doing, but it is a good thing and it does help more kids learn more material. So far, the fundamentals of the program seem sound but the company that is implementing them seems kind of flimsy. I am going to be teaching a lot of little kids and not many teens. this kind of sucks but the little ones are quite amusing. It should be a good learning experience plus it is minimal work that keeps me in Japan with a decent wage. This is good.

Anywho, I am going to get in bed shortly and watch a movie. I am tired and need rest.

Monday, January 09, 2006

In Osaka

Tonight will mark my first night in the city of Osaka. So far, my general impression of the second biggest city in Japan is this, I like it. Osaka seems a tad seedier than Nagoya and the streets are narrower and lined with stalls. It feels more like what I expected an Asian big city to feel like. If you remember Gremlins the movie, think of the opening scene where the dad is in Chinatown and he buys the Mogwai from the old shopkeeper, that is what Osaka looks like and sounds like. There is character here.

This is also Coming of Age Day in Japan. Basically, all of the twenty year old men and women dress up in traditional garb and attend parties in their honor, celebrating their entrance into adulthood. Due to the partying, there are also more people out than usual and there are more drunk people out than usual.

As for my hotel, it is tons nicer than the hotel we stayed at in Nagoya. The room is bigger and fancier and the bathroom is much bigger; I can fit into the shower. I am on what I think is a personal cable modem right now and it is screaming fast. I like having good internet and I will be here for two weeks during training.

As for training, it was pretty boring today. It was full of all of the administrative stuff that you must endure with every new job and they basically told us all of the different ways the can fire us. They are BIG sticklers for being on time. While I don't foresee this being a problem, it kind of worries me just because I am still not 100% comfortable with using the bus and train system yet.

I did get one piece of bad news today. I found out I will not be in Fujieda City as I expected and had planned. I will be in a city called Kakagawa in the Hyodo prefecture. There are upsides and downsides to this change. The downside is that I really liked the location of Fujieda in conjuntion with Tokyo. I was also very close to another girl that I have made friends with during training and we were going to take turns cooking for and visiting each other. It was going to be nice having someone close to hang out with. There are several upsides to the move, however. First, I will be very close to Nara, Osaka, and Kyoto. I will be where the history is. Nara is one of the only cities that we didn't bomb in WWII and many of its historical treasures are in pristine condition. Kyoto used to be the old capital of Japan and many of the oldest shrines are around there. And as I said, I am quickly growing fond of Osaka. Osaka also has Den Den Town. Den Den Town is the second largest electronics and computer area in Japan behind Akihabara in Tokyo. This is good.

I have also been told that my area is generally a nicer setting because Fujieda was a very industrial setting and it is a tad on the polluted side. The funny part is that the girl I was going to hang out with got my job in Fujieda. Evidently, the teacher before me in Kakagawa was a woman who claimed people were stalking her and trying to scare her. They needed a male replacement with a work visa quickly, that was me.The onsen are also down here so that is cool. They are the naturally occurring hotsprings that many people like to soak in. And come cherry blossom season, my city will be on of the first to get them due to its more Southern location. Yay Cherry Blossoms!

Tomorrow, we meet at a quarter to eight in the morning. We are going to go on a guided tour of Osaka and do a set of classroom observations with a partner. I am glad I will be able to move around a bit more tomorrow, today was a lot of sitting.

I also got to ride on the Shinkensin today. That is the Japanese bullet train. That thing moves. It is like riding on an airplane with more room and on the ground. I was amazed at the speed in which scenery flew by me. We went from Nagoya to Osaka in 45 minutes.

Once we got to our new hotel, the majority of the group went out to dinner. It was pretty good but I could have done for something a tad more hearty and filling. But it was good company and pretty cheap for the seven of us to eat so I can't complain too much. I am glad I will be with the group that I am with and I am glad we get to train in Osaka over Nagoya. The hotel is nicer, the city more to my liking, and for the most part the people too. The others that stay in Nagoya have to stay in cheesy apartments that are actually more expensive than what my hotel stay will end up being. All in all, not a bad experience so far at all. I still think I could live here forever. :)

One thing I will not be able to do forever is sleep on the futon that I ordered today. The Japanese have a different idea of what futons are than Americans do. The thing looks small and I doubt the comfort level that one will provide. I could be wrong but just by looking at the pictures, if I am going to be here for any length of time, I want a bed. I also have to air the futon out, as not to get mold and fungus growing on it. Beh. Oh well, now I will know what it is like to sleep on a futon.

Speaking of sleeping, I should probably head that way too pretty soon. I have a long day ahead of me and an early wake up time. Good night everyone!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Training Time

Tomorrow, I begin my official training with the Peppy Kids Club. After tomorrow, I will be in Osaka for a couple of weeks. This is probably going to be the most difficult part of the whole ordeal due to the strenuous work schedule.

The work day starts somewhere around 9am I think and goes until 10pm or so. Needless to say, each day will be a long one. Oh well, after this my average workday is about four hours or so. I can't complain.

I met some of the other people today and they are pretty nice. One of them will actually be in the city right next to me so she and I might hang out sometimes. It will be nice to have another person close just in case I feel like doing something with someone else.

Last night was funny. Jason and I went to a club called Club ID. It is a five storey building and each floor had a different style of music. About halfway through our stay, I was befriended by a group of Japanese people and we danced and drank together for the rest of the night. The fun part came when one of the guy bought Jason and I a double shot of tequilla. That was fun. We had to return the favor so we bought five double shots and gave them to the people in the group. One guy had two and ended up passing out under one of the tables in the club. I tried to help him out but he was out cold. Japanese people like to drink and are good at it but due to my rigorous cross training in the off-season, I can keep up pretty well. I was on my feet at the end of the night and the other guy wasn't, I win.

We walked around a ton today and I showed the new people the ropes. We found a badass computer store and checked it out. I find it mildly amusing that I have to do most of the speaking when we need to ask for directions or talk to Japanese people. I am happy that I can do that pretty well given that I ahve only had a year of the language. I think my skills are improving daily and thats cool.

Anywho, I have to pack tonight and get ready for tomorrow. The company is taking our bags to our new hotel so that is one less thing I need to worry about. Hopefully, the next hotel will have internet too. If not, my posts may be a lot more sporadic than they have been the past few days. Anywho, next stop Osaka.

Friday, January 06, 2006

McDonalds and More Porn

I went to McDonalds today and found it eerily comforting to know that no mater how far I stray from home, McDonalds is pretty much the exact same.

There are some additions and subtractions from the menu however. First, there is a teriyaki burger that we do not have in the US. Second, there is no Double Quarter Pounder. The Japanese version of a large is also somewhat misleading. Their large is the equivalent to the American medium size.

It was pretty painless to order, I know how to count in Japanese pretty well so order a #6 was pretty easy. That is the double cheeseburger. Unfortunately, I do not know how to say "no pickles or onions" yet so I had to scrape them off. No biggy.

Today has been kind of odd, I feel like I am being watched. I am pretty sure my picture was taken via cell phone cam at least once while I was eating, maybe twice. People have also been giving me very brief but scrutinizing stares today. When they see me looking, they quickly turn their head. Its kind of funny. Oh oh, I had my first little Japanese kid stare in horror as I walked toward her. It was like she was seeing Godzilla in real life; that was entertaining. Part of this could also be that I am wearing my urban camo pants, along with a black hoody and black sunglasses. Maybe I look menacing....dunno.

I went to a video game store today and that was fun. People over here really like soundtracks to anime and video games. There are aisles dedicated to them. And just to further illustrate the prevalence of pornography over here I will say that in both the bookstore and computer store, there are sections dedicated to naked chicks getting it on. There was also a section in the music store and the dvd store. In fact, in the computer store, it was actually playing on the tvs as you walked down the aisles. Its messed up to be looking at video games and seeing a couple of people having mad sex on tv out of the corner of your eye, all while your in public. Very odd indeed.

A Night of Wandering

Earlier, I set out for a stroll. The cool part about walking around here is that there is so much to see and do that I don't care where I go, it will all be new.

Tonight I decided to head down some of the smaller streets to see what I could find, it was an enlightening trip. One of the first things I came across was a bookstore/cafe/coffee house that acted as a kind of library for manga comics. It was kind of dumpy but it had character and like most places that serve food around here, it smelled pretty good to me. After a bit of looking around, I headed out again.

A while later, I came upon a DVD store. Upon seeing it was a DVD store I went in to take a peek. Yeah. Yeah. When the Japanese say DVD store, they mean porn store. At least that is what this one was. You walk in the door and see some of the more familiar dvd titles like, "Harry Potter" but not five feet away is a movie with a girl taking it from a horse, I am not kidding. Here is the funny part about porn in Japan, the videos can show intercourse, bestiality, oral sex, whatever, but its censored. They blot out genitalia. Why on God's green Earth would you watch porn if all of the reasons you watch porn to begin with are fuzzy. Well, I take that back, breasts are not censored. In fact, breasts are fairly abundant in magazines here. Speaking of magazines, most computer magazines here are little more than a series of pages to show of porn ads. The thought is, if you are a nerd, you are also a perv.

After the DVD store, I continued to wander through the allies. The next phenomonon I witnessed was that of what I can only describe as a series of very small strip clubs. Most of the men I saw walking into them were business men and these shops were doing a fair amount of business. I think the way it works is outside each club is a poster with a bunch of different girls on it. Each girl is named and priced. You then go in, tell the person at the counter which girl you want to hang out with and they sit you down in a room and the girl of your choice comes in. the price of the session depends on the establishment and the girl but from the places I saw, the going rate is between 2000yen and 7000yen. Now, I do not know if sex goes on here or not. The men may just pay for the girls to hang out with them, as that is not uncommon here either. It may also be a private strip session. Not sure, haven't tried it, don't really plan to. But if I learn more, I will post it.

The next stop on the trip was a pachinko parlor. These places are loud and smokey. Pachinko, is the Japanese version of pinball with a lot more luck than skill coming into play. It is a hard game to describe and there are a ton of variations on the theme. Do a search for it and you will find all sorts of pictures and descriptions. I sat down at a machine that looked kind of like a space-age racing game that had jet cars and stuff in the video that was playing on the screen. The minimum to play was 1000yen or about $10.00 so I slipped a bill in the slot and was greeted by nothing. I pushed a button and a bunch of metal balls shot into a tray in front of me, I pushed another button and they all dropped into a removable bin that you carry with you as you play the games. Many of the people here had five or six bins of tiny steel balls in them, each bin with hundreds of balls. Either way, I figured I had done something wrong so I pushed another button and a credit card thing shot out the side of the machine. I have seen these at other arcades in the US so I put the card back in and pushed a different button this time. The ball came into the tray like they did before but instead of pressing a button to drop them into a bin, I pressed another button and this shot one of the balls up into the machine. The goal of the game I think, is to try to manuveur the balls into specific holes on the playing field. I did this a couple of times and was rewarded with a little cartoon. In the end, I do not understand the game and do not think I am that big of a fan anyway. People here love it though and they play it for hours on end. After they are through, they cash in the balls they have collected for prizes like cases of beer, dvds, wallets, and other stuff.

In the same building as the pachinko parlor, there was a small arcade. I played the game where you beat the taiko drum to the beat and found that I was surprisingly good at it. I like that game, it has peppy music and cute characters. All of the arcades I have been in here have a section dedicated to picture booths. All of the girls like to go to these booths to get pictures of themselves with their friends on different goofy backgrounds. I was stopped in this one though because they were having a party or it was a special session for only certain people or something. Again, my Japanese isn't good and his English was non-existent so I politely made my way out.

All in all, it was a very educational walk. I like exploring the city alone because it allows me the freedom to go where I want. Safety is not a concern here for several reasons: A)The crime rate Japan is low, really low. Japanese women have no trouble walking through the streets at night. B)I am a big white guy. I stand a good four inches taller than most men here and I have a frame that is much bigger and more robust than most of them. In my jacket and cargo pants with my huge shoes, I am not one to be messed with. Little do they know I have never been in a fight. :)

I also walked around a place called Loft. It is a big building that is kind of like a mall but not really. It was closing when I went in and so there were almost no people. I rode the escalators up as far as they went and went to a place that had a nice view of the city and sat for a moment. It was very relaxing and quiet. It was probably the most soulful part of my trip so far. While in the building, I saw another group of dancing girls. This is a strange phenomonon as well. Teenage girls get togather in random places with a boombox, put on matching outfits, and dance to their hearts' content. It is kind of funny and I have seen it twice now. I have pics that I will post later. I will probably make a whole post dedicated to the topic, as it seems to be rather common here.

To top off the walk, I went to Matsuya to eat. It was yummy and I was happy. For more on Matsuya, check out my previous post. If anyone reading this has a particular question or curiosity about Japan and wants me to look into it for them, let me know and I will try my best to give you an answer. Anywho, I am going to get some rest now as today was a pretty long day. This morning, I went to Nagoya Castle. It was cool and I will post about it later when I feel like writing more.

My Favorite Place to Eat

Yesterday, I was shown a new place to eat and since then, it has been my favorite spot in Nagoya. I think the restaurant is called Matsuya but am not one hundred percent sure. If it is my favorite restaurant why do I not know its name, you may ask; try reading Kanji and then get back to me.

This is a picture of what the front of the store looks like:

Anywho, you can see the menu board to the right of the doorway. They have about twenty-five or thirty items to choose from. I like the "Large Healthy Chicken Curry with Rice" the best so far. The last time I ate there, I had the "Beef Over Rice" bowl and it was also good.

Each meal comes with a bowl of miso soup and I think the kind of miso changes throughout the day or maybe from location to location, I am not sure. You also get a cup of tea. I am not sure what kind of tea it is but there is a hint of mint to it and its quite tasty. When I order my curry I also get a cup of water with the meal.

The process of ordering the food also is worth mentioning. As soon as you walk through the door, there is a little machine to the left of you. The machine looks like this:

As you can see, there are a bunch of little buttons on the front of the machine and a place to insert coins and bills. When you have decided what meal you want, you put the proper amount of money into the slot, and then press the button that matches your meal selection. A second later, the machine spits out a little ticket that you hand to the guy behind the bar. That guy then makes your food and you are eating a hot Japanese meal within a couple of minutes. Its that easy.

The thing that seals the deal is the price of the food. My curry with miso soup, tea, and water, comes to 390yen, which is roughly $3.60. You can't beat that. In the US, the same meal would run you at least $10.00, if not more, and would take ten times as long to get made and served to you. The beef bowl that I had tonight was a tad more expensive, coming in at $4.90. Still, not to bad.

Food is not cheap here for the most part so I have a feeling that Matsuya is going to be feeding me quite often. I have been looking at the cost of raw ingredients that I may want to stock my kitchen in my upcoming apartment with and I must say, it doesn't look good. Eggs are not cheap, almost double the price of eggs in the States. Any kind of American box mix that I may want to make is pretty much out of the question. A box mix for Betty Crocker Chocolate Chunk Brownines runs a tad over $7.00. Seven bucks for a box of browie mix!? It is condidered an import, imported things are spendier. Campbell's Soup is $2.50 a can and I am not talking about the hearty style either, this is straight up Chicken and Noodle action. Its funny though, spices are about the same amount of money as they are in the US.

The bottom line is, with places like Matsuya to feed me, it is cheaper for me to go that route than to make my own food. The stuff is not like McDonalds and it won't give me a heart attack and its cheaper. Will I get sick of it, yeah, eventually, but that will be a while.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Adventures of Bubble Man

In my further exploration of Nagoya, I came upon one of their ten gazillion vending machines that had a beverage of which I have never seen the likes of, a beverage so good it transcends the boundaries between human and cola, and that beverage is...BUBBLE MAN!

Bubble Man has travelled from the far away galaxy of Grape to give me an intense flavor sensation that I have never experienced before. How has Bubble Man survived such great peril to deliver this unique blend of grape and grape flavoring you may ask, with the help of his trusty Bubble Suit, thats how.

If you are not familiar with such technological advances as the famed Bubble Suit, the picture above tells you all you need to know. The suit consists of three parts.

First, you have the Bubble Flash. Basically, the Bubble Flash was designed to emit a rapid light pulse so bright that it could send Bubble Man's would-be attackers into a massive seizure that would leave them spasming on the ground. Many a year was spent testing this light pulse on Japanese children. In fact, Pikachu, of Pokemon fame used the prototype Bubble Flash and caused dozens of children to fall prey to its mighty pulsating blasts.

The second part of the Bubble Suit is the Bubble Met. The designers of the Bubble Met used old Bubble MIVs as the base of the design and greatly improved upon their performance by cutting a rectangular hole in the center of the MIV to allow the wearer the mighty ability of vision. With this newfound navigational technology, Bubble Man no longer had to rely on his keen sense of smell to evade his foes. The previous Bubble Man met his match when he dueled the nefarious, Shower. The Shower had no real powers other than his ability to cover his scent but that was enough to defeat the first Bubble Man in a battle that spanned two continents, destroyed Tokyo three times, and created a crater a mile wide. Thanks to the Bubble Met, this new Bubble Man fears no man...unless that man is invisible.

Lastly, is the bulk of the Bubble Suit. Its outer shell is made from advanced polymers and microfibers. All of this is brought to you and powered by the letter "B" emblazoned on the front of the armor. At first, the letter "Q" was used to power the suit but they found that "B" was much more powerful and there was the undeniable synergy that was created by using a letter that happened to be the first letter in Bubble Man's real name, Bob.

Anywho, that pretty much sums up Bubble Man. For a more in depth look into the phenomon known as Bubble Man and his powerful Bubble Suit, read the rest of the back of the can. Or you can do what I did and just make the whole thing up.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Hey all!

As I type this, I am looking out into Nagoya, Japan. This country rocks! The people are super friendly. The scenery is awesome. Everything is freakin' cool.

I landed last night and all of my flights went very well. During the flight over the Pacific Ocean to Japan, all of the seats had LCD screens on them and we had a selection of about 25 movies of which we could watch. They also had video games to play too.

Right now, it is almost 2pm on Thursday, Janurary 5th. The time change has had no effect on me due to my crazy sleeping schedule while I was in the States. All of the people in my group are amused by the fact that I made myself jetlag resistant.

Speaking of the people in my group, so far I have met one guy and two girls. All three of them are from Vancouver,BC and I am pretty sure I am the only American in the group. I am also the oldest one so far by a couple of years and the only one to have any prior education background. I have already been designated the resident computer nerd and repair person as well. Good thing I brought all of my software and tools with me. :)

There is soo much I could post right now, I am experiencing sensory overload. Everything here is different. The people, the language, buildings, cars, everything. But, it is all very cool.

Nagoya is a nice city that I would guess to be roughly the size of Seattle. It is extremely clean and well laid out. I am staying in the Nagoya Kanaya Hotel which is in the main shopping district of Nagoya. So far, I have spotted an Outback Steakhouse, 2 Starbucks, a Denny's, and Kentucky Fried Chicken. It is odd how many Western restaurants there are here and how much English can be found. English is very trendy here and it is used in quite a few billboards and storefronts.

No matter where you go, Starbucks is always the same. I just finished an iced mocha and it was the same mocha I would have grabbed in Boise. The people working there are very friendly and as soon as we walked in, they gave the three of us a menu that was in Japanese and English for us to look at.

While on the topic, let me talk about the Japanese people that I have encountered so far. In one sentence, the Japanese people are extremely friendly, outgoing, and gracious people. They make every effort to make my group and I feel welcome and the language is not that big of a barrier. With the Japanese I know and the English they know, we can find a happy medium in which to communicate. There has only been one occasion that I have had difficulty talking to a person. As soon as the Japanese lady behind me realized there was a breakdown, she immediately stepped in to translate for me and help me out. As I said, the people here make the nicest Americans look like assholes. I am sure there are some jerks, but I have yet to find one.

The cars here are spiffy too. Cars that I could only dream of seeing, let alone owning in the states are very common here. Since landing, I have seen one Toyota Supra, 4 Nissan Skylines, a very suped-up Mercedes-Benz AMG Kompressor V8, and a variety of other tight cars. I love Japanese cars; the Benz was just an exceptional looking vehicle with some Japanese flare.

I know all of this is new and exciting to me and that may dull somewhat over time, but having said that, I could live here. This place is everything and nothing like I thought it would be and more. Its a weird statement to make but I am blown away by Japan so far. I am glad that I did this.

To give you an idea of what stuff looks like here and to give people an idea of what I look like, seeing that I have never posted a pic of myself, here is me bonding with a special someone in front of a KFC.

This place rocks so much and I most certainly will have much to share with everyone while I am here. Expect lots of posts over the next couple of days and probably more pics than I have ever put on here before. I feel like Uncle Travelling Matt from Fraggle Rock. Anywho, I am off to go exploring again now. I will post my findings later on.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

T Minus Three Hours

In a few short hours, I will be on a plane. I am packed and ready to go. This is going to be fun.

The next post will either be in an airport or in Japan....sweet.

Monday, January 02, 2006

The Last Day

Today will mark my last full day in the United States. I have a ton of stuff to do and I am not sure where to really start, so I am typing this.

Most of my clothes are ready to go, they just need to be put in the suitcases. All of my computer stuff is ready as well...or at least it should be in an hour or two. I have been trying to get all of my financial paperwork out of the way so my dad won't have to do too much come tax time and that is almost finished as well. As I said, lots of stuff to finish up and not the biggest amount of time to do it all in.

It seems kind of surreal to be at this point now. Time has clipped by since I returned from my interview to get this job a couple months ago. I don't really know what to say. I think I am still kind of in awe that this is what I am actually going to do and I am not sure if the totality of the whole thing has sunk in yet. On one hand, I am extremely happy and excited that I get to do this because this is going to be a friggin' cool experience. On the other hand, I can't help to think that the whole reason I am doing this is because I am not married anymore and that has been bothering me lately. I think that is due to a couple of things but mostly just because, this is really it and I am really moving on. It will be nice to be in a new environment where I am not constantly inundated with memories. I am anxious to be rid of Boise and all of the baggage that I have come to associate with it.

Another thing that has been bothering me is this, what should I eat for my "last supper"? I have been contemplating Twin Dragon, as I love that place and its food. Panda Express sounds good too but thats not really all that special now is it? Part of me thinks that I should go for something super American, like a big steak. I don't know. I think what will end up happening is that during my running around today, I will end up snagging Wendy's or something lame like that; we'll see.

Anywho, I figured I would post one more post tonight and then after that, I will try to post updates from airports along the way or in Japan itself. I am on the verge of something big and its weird because, while I am excited, I feel surprisingly at piece with everything. I think this is what I am supposed to be doing with my life and it feels good. :)