Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Butterfly Flew Away

Well, its gone. My beloved Butterfly Battle has been kidnapped. Today, for the first time ever, I forget to take the key out of the lock when I leave to get my train and that one mistake cost me my precious.

For one reason or another, I am not overly bothered by this. Perhaps, its the fact that the breaks are getting worn out, the tires need replacing, and the light on it is busted. All of those repairs would have come to the cost I paid for the bike itself. Then there is the fact that I only paid $50 for the bike and I have only done $22 worth of maintnance to it. I bought that bike because I knew the chance of it getting ripped off was pretty good and I was not going to get an expensive bike stolen. All in all, $72 for six months worth of solid transportation isn't too bad.

I suppose I will need to get a new bike at some point but I think I am going to try to wait until I get back from Tokyo. I know that my used stuff shop always carries bikes so I am not too worried about not getting one for a reasonable price. I will miss the Butterfly Battle though. It was a good bike.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Ramen Challenge

Today, I had to go to a meeting in Kakogawa and then go to the office in Himeji. The meeting went well and my boss's boss gave him and I a ride back to the office.

An observation on Japanese corporate culture.

When my family visited, my brother said how it was like there were too many people in Japan and so companies were forced to create pointless positions just to make sure everyone had a paycheck at the end of the month. I am now 100% certain he was totally correct in his statement.

I thought people in the States had some pointless jobs, McDonalds, Costco, Gas Station Attendant, Politician, etc. Jobs can get so much pointless and tedious here that if I worked at McDonalds, I would almost consider myself happy given some of the alternatives. For example, my train station has a guy that grabs a narrow mop and squeegy and rides the escalator once every few minutes in order to let the mop go up the median between the escalators to keep it clean and polished. This is his job. He may do other mindless tasks but this is all I have ever seen him do. I have seen people that are paid to polish the handrails along stairs and stores. There are guys that work for the train companies who have the job to drive the trains from the storage area to the station and then let a real conductor take over. Think of the most tedious, stupid, repetitive tasks and make each task one person's sole job. The same applies to corporate Japan.

In a Japanese office, you will see tons and tons of people. All of them are jabbering away on phones or to each other, all of them writing or typing. Everyone is doing something....on the surface. What everyone is actually doing is pretending like they are being productive because there are so many of them, there is nothing to do.

Today, my boss's boss wanted to give me a "schedule check". Basically, every week I have to call her and tell her where I am going to be and at what times with what classes. I can understand this and don't have a problem with it. It keeps both parties apprised of schedule changes and whatnot. But today was ridiculous. I am in the office and she tells me she wants to do a schedule check with me. I told her that I didn't have my schedule on me and she said that was okay. I figured I would just call her tomorrow and let her know. Oh no, she photocopied my schedule for me, brings over the master and the photocopy and has me read my next week's schedule to her as she checks it with the master that she had just made my copy from. WTF! My boss has watched one person look at a notepad and punch numbers into a calculator. This is a good and productive thing to be doing. It was after a few minutes of this had gone by and my boss looked over her shoulder to see what she was adding and he just saw the big E that pops up when you enter a huge string of numbers into an adding machine and multiply it by an equally huge string of numbers. What this girl was doing was spacing out looking at a piece of paper, while hitting a bunch of keys over and over. She was doing absolutely nothing but it looked and sounded like she was being productive. In Japan, its all about having a job and looking productive at your job. Regardless of how much you actually get done, if you look good doing it, you have mastered your job. People will do the same stupid tasks over and over again every few minutes just to look productive. Even if the chrome on the escalator has been polished three times in the past hour and temporarily blinds small children for brief periods from the glare coming off of it.

To have a job in Japan means that you are part of adult Japanese society. The stigma of working at McDonalds that people in the US have, does not exist so much here. What matters is that you have a job and are a productive worker. What you do for your job is an afterthought. That and there are many, many, many jobs here that are much worse than working at McDonalds. Many.

The other funny part about jobs in Japan is how many people it takes to do any given job. Usually, if it is a construction job, from what I have seen, you will have one guy that is actually cutting a piece of wood. You then have a guy that is helping him lift and keep that piece of wood secure, despite the fact that its a pretty small piece of wood. And finally, you have the supervisor that is doing exactly as his title implies. If the supervisor has a manager or upper-management visiting the site, there may actually be two or three people supervising the sawing of the board while twice as many regular employees hammer on the same nail for fifteen minutes so the bigwigs can think they are all doing something useful.

I like fast and efficient and watching how some stuff works here just makes me want to smack someone. If Japan really wanted to save money they could pay qualified people a little bit more money to take on a slightly bigger workload and then lay off a third of the workforce. But then you have unemployment and Japanese government and society deal with that worse than they handle the current job situation.

Now as the title of this post states, there was a Ramen Challenge issued to me today while I was on my lunch break from the office.

There is a small ramen shop near our building and my boss suggested that we eat there, saying that it had a really good spicy ramen and if I took and won the challenge that the shop had, I would get my picture taken on plastered on the wall of the establishment. My boss has beaten this challenge at both of the shop's locations and until today, was the only white guy to have succeeded in this task.

The rules of the game were simple: eat the entire large bowl of "Ultra" ramen in fifteen minutes or less. The name of this ramen was due to its extreme level of spiciness. It was indeed "ultra" spicy. To help you on your quest, you got bottomless tea and ice water. You also got a box of tissues to wipe away the tears of agony and determination from your eyes. And the snot from your nose due to your sinuses draining from the heat coming off of these noodles.

At first, I was confident. The bowl was a regular sized ramen bowl and I have eaten my fair share of ramen while on this island. I could take this. I could be the second whitey to accomplish this feat. I would be the "Buzz" Aldrin of the spicy ramen challenge.

I took the first couple of mouthfuls in stride. There was indeed some kick to this ramen but it wasn't too bad. A few minutes into my allotted fifteen, I was rocking right along. I tried a spoonful of the broth and it was good, spicier than the noodles but not too bad. And then my mouth started to burn.

I had finished half of the noodles and a quarter of the broth before I stopped having feeling in my lips. I was also unable to distinguish between spicy and thermal heat in my mouth after this point. I began to weep and sniffle, wiping my forehead, eyes, and nose almost non-stop. This was getting very very warm now. I had to go on.

The noodles were gone, I still had the broth but the noodles and the bean sprouts were gone. I was almost done, a little more than five minutes to go. It was around this time that my boss set his chopsticks down and wiped his mouth, he was finished. Punk.

I continued to slurp ladle after ladle of broth. Chunks of onion, pork, and tomato floated in the mix and it was all headed to one spot, my gut. It was about this time that I realized I had about three minutes to go. The broth was still in the bowl, the heat was increasing, and the source of this volcanic brew was emerging as well, slices of jalapenos, seeds and all. I was dying and my boss was rather amused.

I took a small break and a clump of the rice I had ordered. I was getting down to two minutes and this was getting to be down to the wire. Was I to be a member of Apollo 11 or Apollo 13, it was time to see if I had the right stuff.

I figured that being I had long since been able to feel anything in or around my mouth, I may as well cast aside the spoon, put the bowl to my lips, and chug. If I were going to defeat this challenge, I knew it needed to be done. The sludge was hot, I was crying, and the bowl was emptying. And then it was over, I finished. About thirteen minutes and thirty seconds had elapsed since my first slurps into the quest and now it was done. I was a champion as was my boss...again. We got our picture taken together and if you were to walk into this ramen shop right now, we would be the only Westerners amongst hundreds of Japanese. Our spicy ramen eating abilities have surpassed lowly racial boundaries and we have become something more, something better. And we both got stomach aches to pull us down from our cloud. But we did get our picture taken so it all evens out.

There you have it, the story of two men, one calm and collected, the other a weeping fool, both winners of The Ramen Challenge.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Killing Time

So, right now its a little after 5am and I am up and typing this. There are two reasons that I am up this early:

1) You have to go to sleep to wake up, I did not fufill this requirement.
2) Once I realized what time it was a few hours ago, I made the decision to stay up and get a morning train into Kyoto so I could get back here at a half-decent time.

Karie and Reid are coming to visit this weekend and Karie just picked up a pink Nintendo DS Lite and wants the ability to do magical, yet slightly illegal things with said DS Lite. This means that someone needs to run to either Kyoto or Tokyo to score some hardware to make that dream possible. Who knows, I may hit up Den Den Town in Osaka just to see if I can find anything there as well. I know for sure I can get what I need in Kyoto though and I don't really want to be gone all day so I may just head there and come back. That way, when Karie and Reid do come down, we don't have to spend hours in a car when we could be doing something else.

In other news, I did not have water for about four hours today. They were doing something with the pipes and turned off the water. Fortunately, I have water now but I have to be careful because whenever they mess with what they were messing with, the water pressure goes crazy for a few days. I can turn the water on low and all of the sudden hear a small explosion and have a fire hose sized gush coming from the tap. Its freaky and has scared the crap out of me on several occassions.

I also got word that my vacation time for the end of September was approved and the way my manager worked everything, I do not lose any money or need to use vacation time in order to go. I think she kind of felt like she owed me since I have been doing a few favors for her lately. Whatever works, I am going to TGS!

My hangover is now totally gone and that also makes me happy. Having a two day hangover sucks and its stupid. I didn't mean to get that wasted and it just snuck up on me really fast. I was to blame for that though, I should eat more than three cake donuts and some fries all day before drinking at night. My eating habits are really messed up and I am not sure how to fix them. Somedays, I hardly eat and others I over eat; I am having a hard time find a balance. If I had the money, I would snag a dietician for a few months. Then I would learn how to eat correctly and have someone to talk to at the same time. Wouldn't that be fun! Of course I would need an English speaking one and that is not going to happen anytime soon.

Now, I am going to jump into the shower and get ready for my trip into Kyoto. Since I am up, maybe I will grab McDonalds' breakfast. The breakfast menu is almost identical to the one in the US and this makes me happy. I love McDonalds' breakfasts for some reason.

Anywho, I am off! Have a good day and I will talk to you all later!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Drunk Last Night, Hungover (Bad) Today

Time for me to dispense another piece of wisdom to my readers...all five of you. When you party with German engineers, expect to get horribly and utterly drunk.

Last night, I was in Himeji because I had to sub for a class and they put me up in my favorite hotel in town, the luxurious Sun Route. Seeing that I was within walking distance of my favorite bar in Himeji, I made the I kind of wish I hadn't. I should have known how the night was going to end from the very beginning. The bar I like is called Tiger Pub and its on the second floor of a building it shares with another bar that is called Sports, I think. Either way, both bars are kind of known to cater to gaijin and there were plenty of them there last night.

First, I ran into a guy I work with and another that I used to work with. I talked with them for a while on the patio but both of them took off after a bit leaving me with about 50 guys on shore leave from the US Navy. I can understand the need to blow off steam once you get off a destroyer with 300 other guys and five "ugly-ass" women and these guys were doing just that. There was much drinking to be had and so I talked to them for a little bit. The odd part of the night came when one guy told me he was on the USS Blah Blah (I was a tad buzzed by this point) and I said "oh, a destroyer" and he just kind of gave me this puzzled look as to how I knew the classification of his ship. Sometimes a good memory can make you look like a freaking genius, especially to drunk sailors. As the witching hour approached, one of them was sober enough to realize that curfew was almost upon them and most of them left.

After that series of short conversations, I meandered upstairs to find that of all of the sailors that I last saw drunkenly swaggering toward their bus stop were all lowering ranking guys and that their officers were still partying at the Tiger Pub. The woman that runs Tiger Pub is named Yayoi and she is very cool. If you bring in your iPod, you can jack it into the bar's sound system as long as you play music that makes the bar patrons happy. There was another guy that had his iPod playing rap that some of the Navy guys were dancing to but some of the others wanted to hear Blink 182 and some other stuff. That is where I came in. Its become known that I have a crazy amount of music and that my tastes are pretty eclectic. The challenge to selecting music for a whole bar of people is that everyone has different tastes. So the way I was doing it was I would play a couple of rap songs and then a couple of rocks songs. The Navy guys were happy that I was alternating and this pleased pretty much everyone. Until two German guys came in.

One guy was about my dad's age and the other was in his mid-thirties and we hit it off almost immediately. They liked electronic music and them hailing from a country known for its DJs and dance clubs, they were picky about what techno they liked. Lucky for all of us, I am just as picky and we had similar tastes. It was about this time that all of the Navy guys started to head out and so I felt comfortable to move the music into the realm of downtempo chill trance. Did I mention that I had been drinking up to this point? Well, I had been.

So I am talking with these German guys and it turns out they were engineers of one sort or another and they were staying in Japan to upgrade some equipment that a factory was using. Anywho, we get talking about music and out of nowhere one of them mentions how he would love to hear some Johnny Cash!!! Who knew Germans would even know who Johnny Cash was, let alone like his stuff. When I told them that I had everything he ever did and all of the good stuff was on my iPod they both freaked. One of the guys actually saw him in concert and insisted that I play Ring of Fire. Next to my experience with a drunk Japanese guy singing Motley Crew, drunk German guys singing Johnny Cash is a close, close second. Looove Is A Baaaning Thing!

After the Johnny Cash experience, we started talking about German food and how we all missed eating it. Then one of them mentioned that he may be able to return to Germany in time for Christmas and I mentioned the story of the Christmas Spider and that pretty much solidified the fact that I am at least half-German. Did I mention I was still drinking? Well, I was.

The final topic of discussion was beauty and smooth sweet taste of Jagermeister. Ok, I am going to admit, I brought it up because I wanted one of them to buy a round of it and I figured both of them were drunk enough and friendly enough that it might work. And it did. The older guy had a sweet spot for Jager and it was his special drink. A shot glass was inserted into my hand right about there. I rule.

After that, stuff gets really fuzzy. One minute I am in the bar saying goodbye to my newfound friends, the next I am in the staircase, next I am on the street, next I am in the covered shopping area next to my hotel, puking. Beh.

As it turns out, that was one of the more inebriated moments in my life. Which is strange but I didn't feel too bad until I started puking. It just kind of snuck up on me, friggin' Jager. This morning was bad. On the Mogwai Scale of Hangover Magnitude this was an 8/10. 1 being mildly drowsy, 10 being unable to leave bed lest you puke. I was able to get out of bed but I was not very functional until early afternoon. I still feel a tad messed up now. Freakin' Jager. Having said that, its amazing how comfortable the floor of a train can be to sleep on. There were no seats left on my ride back home today and so I found a spot next to the wall of the carriage, sat Indian style with my backpack in my lap, and slept for over an hour.

I think that if I were not so damned friendly, these things would not happen to me. I don't normally drink alone and it seems that wherever I go, I can always find a friend. And if that friend is drunk enough, a free drink. To turn down free booze is the moral equivalent of head butting an old woman in the face, you just shouldn't do it.

So there you have it, my drunken excursion into Himeji and the horrible, no good, very bad day that followed.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Christmas Trip

I have known for a while what I am doing for Chistmas break but I could not mention it on here because it was a surprise for someone until the other day when she found out about it.

Karie and Reid and I are going to Thailand for Christmas! Why, because nothing says "lets worship the birth of our savior" like, women in bikinis, liquor, and sunny SouthEast Asian beaches. It really is the yuletide gift that keeps on giving. While Karie may not be looking forward to the first reason for going on the trip, and Reid is not allowed to say he is, I will happily vouch that women in bikinis is a very good reason to go to Thailand for Christmas. It will be kind of like Clark Griswald's daydream while he is trapped in the attic in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

I also heard that a teaching position opened up when they extradited John Mark Karr back to the States and figured I would check up on that. :) Okay, bad joke but I had to.

Not a lot of details about the trip yet, hopefully within the next few weeks we will have some of those hammered out. I am looking forward to it though, it should be fun and it will definitely be a new place to explore. The big question is: Does Santa come to third world countries like Thailand? I would guess that he does due to the fact that there are lots of kids there and most of them are probably pretty well-behaved since they don't get a lot of time to goof off being in a sweatshop and all. I guess I shall see. :)

Very Cool Song That I Translated

One of my Japanese teachers needed help translating a song for her sister. She had made two attempts at it but it still didn't sound right to her and she thought it sounded too much like she looked all of the words up in a dictionary or translator. Anywho, once I took a crack at it, I found that I really liked these lyrics and I thought I would share my translation of the song because I really like its meaning.

Here it is:

We can never meet during the winter, when the powder snow falls.

We look up at the sky, feeling the same wind,
Shivering in the same cold.

I may not know everything about you,
But out of a billion people I have found you.

I am not sure why but I know you are the one.

Hey powder snow, if you could color my heart white,
She and I could share our loneliness.

(Its impossible for us to spend time together, without a bit of our pleasure and our sorrow surrounding us.)

I just want to try to listen to your deepest emotions where,
I can hear your voice, I'll plummet down to hear your voice.

Thats me scratching the surface to understand you,
I held your freezing hand to feel your warmth.

There is something about the Fall and Winter seasons that I find very romantic and enchanting. If I have my way, next time around I would like to be married during those months. Those lyrics kind of capture all of my feelings about love and that time of year. Next time we meet, Mari is going to bring me the original song and I am looking forward to hearing it, she really liked my translation so I must have at least captured the general feeling of the song. Anywho, if anyone is looking to seduce me, lyrics like that are a good start. :)

Monday, August 21, 2006

A Humid State of Bland

Have you ever had a string of days where you didn't feel great but you didn't feel bad but you felt crappy enough to not want to do anything? That is kind of where I have been for three days now. My stomach has been mad at me for some reason for a couple of days and yesterday, I had a headache most of the day. I didn't feel horrible but I felt bad enough to just want to be lazy and when I am lazy I start to get in a bad mood because nothing is getting done. Its odd, I used to be able to do nothing for whole days and be totally cool with it, now I can't.

Anyways, not much is going on. I have watched a lot of Law and Order: SVU and played a bit on my DS. Today, I feel pretty good and I go to class in a little while. I am looking forward to it so that is good. This week is going to be a pretty uneventful one and next week doesn't look much better. Karie and Reid are supposed to come visit in the next week or two and that will be nice. Karie got a pink DS Lite and now they want all of the games to go with it, I can hook them up.

I thought I should post something seeing that I haven't in a few days. I hate posting for the sole sake of posting. I feel like its a waste to read these kind of posts. But I have time to kill and I just wanted to let everyone know I am still alive so there you have it.

Friday, August 18, 2006


Now that the Obon festivities have been over for a couple of days, I try to will sum up everything that went on. First, there was a lot of stuff going on depending on where you were, each town has their own way of celebrating Obon, some are more elaborate than others.

My first Obon adventure was my trip to a temple outside of Kyoto called Adashino Nembutsu-Ji. The draw of this temple are the 8000 some odd stone statues that are crammed into the area. Each stone represents a homeless person or a person without a family that died and their remains were brought to the temple. Every year on the 23rd and 24th of August they light candles in remembrance of each soul. I want to see that but I am not sure I will be able to make it. Either way, you don't realize how big of a number 8000 is until you see all of these little statues. There is also a really cool bamboo forest behind the temple and a very large cemetery. At the cemetery, people were lining up around this fountain, waiting their turns to douse each visage of Buddha that made up the base of the fountain with water. At each Buddha, they would pour water from the fountain over each of his shoulders and then his head and then say a small prayer. By the time a person was done making their way around the fountain, they had repeated this six or seven times. It was really cool to see but photography was not allowed there so, no pictures of it.

After the temple, I walked back down the road and stopped in all of the little shops along the street. There was one shop that was selling handmade ceramics that were made in a kiln in the rear of the shop and I bought a very cool candle lit shadowcaster. When I place a candle inside of it, the silhouette of a witch flying over a house on her broom, shines on my walls. Its very cool and unique.

Finally, I took a bus back to the Kawaramachi area of Kyoto and looked in some shops. I found one store that had the kit needed to play pirated Nintendo DS games on the DS and snagged one of those. It is nice to be able to carry my DS around now without having to carry any games with it. There are times when piracy is danged convenient. After this, I went home for the night.

The next day marked the highlight of the Obon festivities for Fukuchiyama, a massive fireworks display. The Japanese word for fireworks is "hanabi" or "fire flower". I must say, I will never be please by a North American fireworks display again. I have never seen fireworks like these ones, they were phenomenal. The whole show lasted an hour and a half and had seven or eight finales. Each business that wanted to donate to the display bought their own fireworks I think and so it came down to all of the businesses trying to out do each other. I saw a waterfall made from sparks, one kind of firework that when launched and exploded had such a powerful explosion that it took a second for the sound to hit the crowd but when it did, your hair fluttered briefly from it. There were fireworks of all sorts and all of them were pretty cool. Bottom line, I like Japanese hanabi shows.

There were also snack vendors present for the festival. I really enjoyed one snack that was called Baby Capallera or something like there. It was basically waffle batter that had honey in it and was poured into these molds. The result was a fluffy, donut-like treat that was shaped like Doremon, Winnie the Pooh, or a little ball. You buy them by the bag and they are tasty. Also for sale was some of the best fried chicken I have ever eaten, served by the chunk in these little cups. That was good chicken. I am very glad I am here for another year if only for the fact that I get to see all of this one more time. It was so much fun.

The following day, I went back to Kyoto with Karie and Reid. As the closing of Obon means that your deceased relatives have to go back to their world, we watched thousands of little floating lanterns sail down the river to help guide the spirits. Each lantern had a person's name on it and that was supposed to act as that person's guide back to the spirit world. Before the launch, people were buying them and calligraphy artists were writing the peoples' names on the lanterns. That was something to see as was the lighting of the kanji characters on the hills surrounding the outskirts of Kyoto, technically a town named, Arashiyama. You could see some of the kanji for miles due to their size and the orange flames that punctuated the night sky. It was very beautiful and I am thankful I got to see it. If anyone wants to come visit and can get here around the tenth of August and wants to leave around the twentieth or so, you can see all of the Obon festivities and still be able to see the other cool stuff Japan has to offer.

Now on to the pics! I apologize ahead of time for some of the blur on a few of them, my camera isn't very fond of low light.

These are of the lanterns that went down the river:

This was one of the kanji that was burning on the hillside overlooking the valley:

Here are a few pics from my visit to Adashino Nembutsu-Ji, these are of the statues:

This is a small wooden monk I found praying at the entrance to the statuary:

Here is the path that leads through the bamboo forest:

Well, that is about all for now. The whole experience was a blast and I am glad I will be able to have a second go at it next year. I am going to update the Multiply site with even more pictures in a few days. I am in the process of sorting all of my pics at the moment and that is proving to be a little more tedious than I anticipated. Don't think that I have not forgotten that site, it will get updated very soon.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Festival Fun

The past few days have rocked for me! The Obon festivities were so much fun, I am glad I get to see them one more time before I leave Japan. I have a ton to type and a few pics to post as well but I am tired at the moment and want to get some sleep.

I may write an entry tomorrow describing everything but if I were going to guess it will probably be the day after that before I get around to it. Tomorrow, I am going out of town to sub for a class and I won't be getting back until later in the evening. When I do make the all encompassing Obon entry, expect pics of candle lit lanterns floating down a river, fireworks, the hillside of Kyoto aflame with Kanji characters burning on the slopes, and my trip to a very cool shrine to the homeless and vagrants of Kyoto. Its been a good past few days I must say.

But for now, I need sleep and when I do post, it will be a long and detailed entry. This was easily some of the most fun days I have had since coming to Japan and I want to share everything with everyone.

Oh, one more thing, I have been getting a few questions from people that are thinking about coming to Japan and teaching with Peppy Kids Club. If you have questions regarding anything about that, just leave a comment on this post. The earlier post that people have been commenting on is getting pretty crowded with comments and its further down on the list of posts now. I like answering the questions so do not hesitate in asking them, just leave comments on the most current post that I have made on here. That way they are easier for me to see.

Night Night!

Monday, August 14, 2006

On This Day In History

As I type this, the day is August 15th and exactly sixty-one years ago something happened that was both miraculous and heart braking at the same time. It was today, August 15th, 1945 that Japan officially agreed to an unconditional surrender and ended World War II. For almost everyone in the world, this was good news and rightly so but for Japan, it was devastating.

Here, people were told that they must turn on their radios and listen at 12pm, fifteen minutes from now actually, and that there would be an important message. They were going to hear Emperor Hirohito speak. This was something that was a first in the history of Japan, for the average Japanese person, they had never heard the Emperor's voice. When the broadcast started, most people were in awe of the fact they were hearing the Emperor himself, then he delivered the message that he had agreed to the Potsdam Declaration and that Japan was going to unconditionally surrender to the Allied forces. The entire world heard him say these words and celebrations erupted around the globe. In Japan, people wept. It was heart braking for them to have heard their Emperor for the first time and for him to tell them that they were to stop fighting, that they were beaten. Hirohito's speech actually ran a bit longer than what most of the world heard that day. After, he announced the surrender, most of the Allied radios tuned out, but in Japan he had more important instructions for the people. Hirohito told the people of Japan that it was now their duty to the country to cooperate fully with Allied forces. His words were laying the groundwork for the peaceful occupation of Japan. The Japanese remember one part of the speech in particular to this day, "However, it is according to the dictates of time and fate that We have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is unsufferable."

Hirohito had probably recorded the message a day or two earlier and records were cut and shipped throughout the world, the message became known in English as the "Jeweled Voice Broadcast".

The air raid siren just sounded here, letting everyone know that it is now noon and as soon as the siren ended, big fireworks started going off! In Tokyo, Prime Minister Koizumi visited Yasukuni shrine to remember the nation's war dead. This will not make the Chinese or the Koreans happy but I like the fact that he does it. Yes, Japan did some horrible things in WWII but that does not make those that died any less brave for sacrificing themselves for their country and what they believed in. China and Korea both need to understand that what happened, took place more that sixty years ago and all their doing now is annoying a younger generation of Japanese that were not even born yet when the atrocities were committed.

In closing this post, I am going to leave everyone with some pictures. We have all seen the celebrations that took place in New York when the war ended, sailors lifting up women and kissing them, confetti raining down on everyone, the works. Now, I will show you what it was like here in Japan. All of these pictures were taken as the people in the shots were listening to the Emperor tell them they they were surrendering and that the war was over. It was a less-jubilant atmosphere to say the least.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Video Games That Need To Be Made

Lately, I have been in a gaming slump. I really don't feel like playing any of the games I have and there aren't many games out there that I want to get. If I knew how to program, I would start making my own games but I have no clue where to start with that. I think I would make a better designer/writer rather than a programmer when it comes to games.

Here is a short list of games that I would like to see made. If you know of any games that you think I may like, feel free to suggest something.

1) A FPS/Survival game based on the book/movie/manga of Battle Royale. I already know what I want in the game but I do not think any gaming studio could pull this title off unless it was Rockstar. They are about the only game studio that I believe has the ambition and creativity to make this game good. If you are not sure what Battle Royale is, get on Amazon and buy the book; its one of the most fun reading experiences you will have. Keep in mind that I am suggesting the book be turned into a shooting/survival game, if that doesn't sound like your kind of book, you may want to look at other titles.

2) A good Zombie apocalypse MMORPG. I am not talking about a text based game with a couple of illustrations here and there, I want a full on AAA scale title. I want it to be bloody and cool and I want to be able to choose a scavenger as my profession. I want an environment in which I can use pretty much anything as a weapon and I want the whole game to be PvP. You can't have a good zombie game without everyone worrying about all of the other humans that are still kicking around and killing zombies too. If any game creators want inspiration for this title please read the Walking Dead comic books series and watch the original Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead. Watch Shawn of the Dead too, just because it’s a good movie.

3) Along the same lines as suggestion two, I want a good post apocalypse MMORPG. I am thinking along the lines of Fallout 2. Not much else to be said about this other than if I had the money to finance one game, I would pick the zombie survival MMORPG over this one. The only franchise that I think had the possibility do pull this off was the cyberpunk setting of Shadowrun. It wasn't really post-apocalyptic but it was fun, more fun than scavenging for berries in a weed infested mall that used be be in the suburbs of Chicago before it was nuked. Now that Microsoft has raped that franchise and is placing its bruised corpse on the XBox 360, my dreams of a good Shadowrun video game are pretty much gone. Here's to the Genesis port of Shadowrun.

4) SimCity 5, nuff' said.

5) I would also like a game that is an MMORPG set in 1890-1900 New York City. I think it would be doable to make the game to scale with a full New York of the time period and people could choose any profession they wished. I want this game to be able to educational as well as fun. I want people to be able to eat lunch at Delmonico's and rub noses with the elite of America from that time period with one character, while being able to either help dig the Brooklyn Bridge or mug theater goers with another. I want the full turn of the century New York experience. Slums, snobs, serial killers, and just you average working class guy. This is the historian in me wanting a game to replace the Oregon Trail series in the classroom. I figured if the game was ever designed, you censor it and give it to educational facilities for free and then when the kids see how cool it can be, they go home and pay the monthly fee to be able to do all of the stuff in the game that they can't do in school. Educational with the potential to be an extremely violent game, that is what I'm talking about.

6) I would like to see a new remake of the old SNES game, Zombies Ate My Neighbors. That was a quality game that did not get the attention it deserved. Yes, I have a thing for zombie games but this was a really cool and creative title. I still play it on emulators from time to time.

7) Lastly, I want a game that is an MMORPG that just simulates the real world. I want to be able to make a character and just go work some lame office job or be a policeman. I am not sure why I find this game so appealing but I do. One friend brought up the point, who would want to pay a montly fee to simulate something he does in the real world, especially if the job sucks? I am not sure but for one reason or another, I am intrigued by it. I want this game to be able to simulate all consequences for my actions and if need be, I want to be able to rot in a jail cell for a time if I break the law in the game. I really like simulations and this would kind of be the king of them.

Okay, that’s my list. I admit, I have odd tastes in video games. I think more than that is the fact that I am not really pleased by any of the MMORPGs out there right now and I know they can do better. World of Warcraft is pretty much Diablo or any other fantasy game. The only difference is in WoW you can talk to Asian players that mine in-game gold for a living in the real world. Everquest is pretty much dead or dying. City of Heroes was fun for a while but it was too basic and got repetitive. If there was a game that convinced me that being a superhero would suck, it was CoH. Guild Wars is a pretty version of Diablo with a beefier chat client. I hate Diablo. Diablo makes me want to punch babies and I am pretty sure it was mentioned in the Bible that baby Jesus cried after he saw Diablo. Man, I hate that game. Go in a dungeon, kill stuff, go out of the dungeon and sell your loot to get better weapons and armor, go back in a dungeon and kill stuff. When I want a game that really only gives me three choices for something to do, I will play Pac Man, it gives me four choices: up, down, right, and left.

So there you have it, my list of games and a rant about Diablo that I threw in for color. If anyone feels like making any of these games and want to hire me as a designer or writer, let me know. Hey, if you just want to make those games and not pay, I will help out for free. Later.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

My Sagely Advice for Those Coming to Japan

Over the past few weeks I have been getting emails and questions regarding Japan and what things people should know before coming here to live or visit. This post is going to try to answer the bulk of those questions and some of the stuff I say here is from my own experience that I wish someone would have told me before I came over here. Now, I am telling you!

For those coming to live or visit here:

1) Internet takes a while to get set up, much longer than it does in the States or Canada. Be ready for this and know that when you sign up for the internet, three weeks wait time is quick here. Mine was set up in two and that was consider by many, an act of God.

2) Learn Katakana before Hiragana. In Japanese classes they teach you Hiragana first and Katakana second. You will use Katakana more then Hiragana, learn it, have it down pat before you come. When you see a grocery store here, you will thank me.

3) Bring some three prong to two prong electrical converters. Anything you have that has a ground plug on it will not work here unless you bring some two prong electrical outlet converters. I have known people just to bust off the ground but I would not advise it. All standard plugs in Japan are two prong.

4) Do not bring clocks, hairdryers, or curling irons if they have to be plugged in. Clocks go absolutely nutty here unless they are bought here. I have seen a hairdryer burst into flame and I have never trusted curling irons either since then.

5) If you have the money, get an MP3 player and a Gameboy DS or PSP. When you ride trains as much as I do, you will be glad you have them. My iPod gets used more than almost anything I own. Books are good to read on trains but books weigh a bit and cost a ton to bring with you. They are also a tad tricky and spendy to find in English here. My advice on books, bring only a few that you love and will be able to re-read.

6) If you think you are going to want a car while in Japan(though I am technically not allowed to by my employer) get your international driver's license before coming to Japan. Its illegal to get an international license while in Japan so you need one before you come.

7) Learn some basic phrases in Japanese. Where is something? How much is something? Excuse me. Thanks. Etc. This is just plain good stuff to know. In my opinion, if you are living in Japan, you should learn Japanese. Many people here will not speak to you in English, don't expect them to. I have found people are a ton more helpful even if you just try to speak Japanese. They set the bar pretty low for white people so if they see you even trying to say something, they will be pleased. On that note, if you come to Japan and already know Japanese pretty well, fake that you don't. A) Its funny to see what they say about you when they don't think you will understand and B) Sometimes if you speak Japanese too well, it weirds them out and they are less helpful.

8)Be patient and good natured and that will get you far here. As a rule, that probably applies to life as a whole but in Japan, its crucial. As I said, not all Japanese people know English and those that do probably will not be fluent in it. Be ready to help them out with whatever Japanese you know. Have a sense of humor about the whole thing and know that they are probably as uncomfortable with the situation as you are, if not more. Do not be rude to them! If you get rude with them, like all people, Japanese can turn into jerks really quick. See how far you get when you have pissed off the only kind of English speaking guy in a place. If Japanese people get the feeling you are being a jerk to them, even if they can't understand you, things go South very quickly. I know people that, while the Japanese people act friendly toward them in person, they say some pretty mean things behind their back and its all because this person was rude to a couple of people one time at a meeting. In my group of people at work, if you tick off one of the Japanese teachers, its a good bet news of what you did or did not do will get around to the others. Bottom line, be nice.

9)When you come here, get the train system down. It looks daunting at first but after a day or two you will see its actually very easy to use. The train is your life sometimes, know them, love them. :) You will find that after a while of riding them, you start to have places on each kind of train that you like to sit more than others. On every train I ride, I have a favorite spot on each side of the train depending on the direction I am going. Maybe I am weird, maybe I just figure if I am going to ride them as much as I do, I am going to be comfy doing it.

10) DO NOT BE RUDE TO COPS! This is a biggy. As I have said in other posts, Japanese cops have the ability to make your life a living hell if you tick them off. If you do not have your ARC card yet, carry your passport pretty much everywhere you go. There will be cops that will stop you on the street and ask to see it. If you need directions and stop at a Koban (police box) be ready to show your passport or ARC card. If you do not have it on you and you walk in to ask for directions, considered yourself fined, if not worse.

11) I feel like I say this almost every post these days but, its really really humid here. Bring the appropriate attire for the climate. Be ready to sweat and have deodorant with you. Its hard to find in stores sometimes. Stay hydrated and cool as much as possible. If you are traveling to a meeting, it may be best in the summer months to bring the dress clothes with you and get dressed up right before the meeting. This will keep you from looking like a wet rat in your nice clothes.

12) Learn to cook stuff without an oven or using only one burner. Apartments vary here but none I have seen have a kitchen like we are used to in North America. Find dishes you like that you can make in a pan on the stove. Prepare yourself to be without an oven for a while. If you are lucky enough to get an oven, be ready for it to be very very small.

13) It may be where I am at but as a whole, Japan can be a kind of lonely place. Try to make as many friends as possible and try to find people to hang out with. Aside from the internet, I do not talk to a lot of people very often. This kind of sucks and its really the only complaint I have about living here. Everyone deals with loneliness in different ways but be prepared for it, it will probably creep up on you at some point.

Special notes for females coming to Japan:

1) If you are a blonde or a redhead, prepare to get starred at and possibly photographed. Men are not supposed to take pics but don't be surprised if they do. If a guy really starts hassling you, report him to the train conductor or a cop if you see one. They are cracking down on pervs so odds are if you complain, they will act.

2) On trains especially, keep on eye out for gropers. If you want to feel more at ease and the train you are riding has a women only car, ride it. Groping is a problem here, especially if you are good looking and stand out. Odds are, if you are white, you are going to stand out.

3) While Japan is a pretty safe place, if you are alone, do not walk down certain streets at night. You will know the streets when you see them and I would avoid them unless you have a friend with you.

4) If a guy starts to bother you, go nuts on him. I have heard stories of guys bothering women and once the woman starts yelling at him the guy runs away. Japanese do not like confrontation and people getting in their face, use that to your advantage.

Well, thats about it for my Yoda-esque advice. If anyone has any questions beyond what I mentioned here, feel free to email me or leave a comment. I hope this helps, though a lot of it is kind of general knowledge. If you are moving to Japan, be ready for a fun time. Japan is a cool place to live and I have been pretty happy here, hopefully you will like the country as much as I have.

A Mini-Vacation for Obon

Today was the last time I teach for a few days and I'm stoked for the time off. Sunday marks the beginning of Obon and of all of the holidays I have seen here, I am most excited about this one.

The celebration of Obon varies from region to region. Most parts of Japan celebrate the time in mid-August, while some celebrate in July. Regardless of the time the festival is celebrated most regions of Japan go all out for this festival. Basically, it is a Buddhist belief that during Obon, your ancestors that have passed on will come back to visit with you and see how everything is going. People hang lanterns in their windows and doorways to help their relatives find their way home and this is a time for families to gather at graves and leave offerings of treats for their loved ones. It is very similar to the Day of the Dead that is celebrated throughout parts of South America and the Chinese also celebrate a version of Obon called the Ghost Festival.

The festival starts in Fukuchiyama tomorrow and culminates on the 16th with a big fireworks display by the river that runs through my town. Before I looked into what the festival was actually celebrating, I thought it was just kind of a summer festival to mark the season and the river seemed like a logical place to shoot off fireworks because its wet and open. As it turns out, many people will probably bring small lanterns and candles to float down the river at the end of the night. After your relatives come to visit you, you have to guide them back to their home and you do that by placing a lantern or candle in a lake or river. They will follow the light back to their world.

Over the years, this holiday has become the time for family reunions and this places it in the top three busiest traveling times in Japan. The other two are the Christmas/New Years season and Golden Week. Now I feel kind of sort of bad about messaging this one woman I know and asking her what she was going to do with her time off...kind of sort of hinting that I will be watching fireworks on the 16th and wouldn't mind company. Now I know she will most definitely be with her family like she should be.

The more I learn about Japanese holidays, the more I start to like a lot of them. Yeah, some of them are pretty pointless but there are a few that I really like the meaning of. I am not sure why, but I find it very comforting to know that relatives can come back and visit you and kind of check up on you. I think part of it stems from the fact that after I die, I would like to know that my family and friends are all still doing okay here on Earth. That and for the longest time, I have felt like my grandpa who died almost fourteen years ago, still comes back to check up on me. I feel selfish for saying that because there are people he could check up on that need his help a lot more than me but there are times where I swear he was standing right next to me or sitting on the train with me, enjoying the scenery as it passes by. He liked to travel, like me. Who knows, maybe he is just coming back to visit because I know that if he were still alive today, he would come here and visit me and see the country like I am now.

Anywho, I am expecting to get some pretty cool pictures in the next few days and when I do, I will post them. If you want to learn more about Obon and its history, there is a Wiki for it, just pop in Obon.

Until the next post, Grandma and Grandpa Walker, this Obon is for you.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Messed Up Dream

I am in some service tunnels behind some kind of memorial to MLK. I know I am at an MLK memorial because in the room I'm in are two 9x3ft. rotating cylinders that have his "I have a dream," speech inscribed on them in cursive, lit from the inside out as to throw the wording from the cylinders on to a wall.

Not a lot of people have come into these tunnels lately but for some reason, I am there and am figuring out the mechanical workings of each cylinder. The walls of the room and the tunnel system are a light, rust-colored, orange and the whole setup is glowing with a golden light. You can see dust floating in the air and its warm. For one reason or another, I am very comfortable in these tunnels and I think part of that has to do with the fact that I am not supposed to be there.

Somewhere toward the tunnel system entrance, I hear a door slam open. I know this means that the tunnel's keeper has arrived with his pet. I need to hide and fast. His pet is a girl. She has long black hair and wears a white night gown that buttons from the front. She walks on her hands and feet, crab style, and she is very fast. I can already hear here scurrying through the passages and rooms, hunting me.

I see a series of three doors that have been ripped from their hinges and propped up against a wall. I decide to hide behind a white one in the middle that is old enough for the paint to start to creeping away from the wood, but its too late. As I am going to the door, I see her come around the corner to my left. I run.

I go through several doors and chambers. I know that what I am doing now is less about finding a place to hide and more about conjuring some distance between her and I. My plan is not working and she is gaining on me.

Right as I am about to run through a doorway, I see her standing there so I double back to my right. I see her hair flap as she bolts to the right as well. I am trapped and now she is in the doorway, savoring the treeing of her prey. I wake up.

I didn't stay awake for long and as soon as I close my eyes, I am back in that room only this time, she is nowhere in sight. Then, quickly, from below my field of vision she bursts up in front of my face. Her eyes on fire with rage and her mouth snarling several inches from my own. The next thing I know, she is at my throat, ripping it out with her teeth. She brings her head back up to mine and her mouth is dripping blood down her chin and its smeared all over her face. There is also a dainty morsel of me between her clenched jaws. I am dead. I almost always end up this way.

This is a dream I have had four or five times with variations here and there. I have only escaped once for sure but maybe twice. Usually, I die, though that is not a horribly uncommon ending for any of my dreams. What got me with this one was how vivid it was, it was pretty freakin' cool. If anyone does any of that dream analysis stuff, let me know what all of this is supposed to mean. I can't say I will believe it but at the very least, its probably something amusing.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

My Paddy, All Grown Up

My rice paddy has reached its adult stage! All of the sprouts are now starting to get shoots that looks a little like wheat when its almost ready to be harvested. You can see grains coming out of the stocks and the plants are starting to bend slightly under their weight. I also noticed the addition of a little tag that marks each paddy. I am thinking this has something to do with harvesting but I am not sure as to what. Anywho, here are the pics:

Not a lot else has been going on, I signed on to stay here another year. Part of me is ready to come back to the United States now, but there is still stuff here that I want to do here and I have made this place my home and I do like it here. I thought about it quite a bit and weighed the pros and cons of staying with a little more thought than I had previously put into the notion and came to the decision that staying one more year was the best option for a variety of reasons.

I have also been worrying about my "career" in teaching lately and I have done some stuff in that department that has made me feel a bit better about all of it. I now have a game plan as to how I am going to pursue my goals. This has put me at ease a tad.

Anywho, I am in the middle of lunch and then I have to get ready to teach today. My classes today are some of my most evil and I am mentally steeling myself for the onslaught that will sweep over me in a few hours. Other than the rice stuff, not a lot to say. A coworker and I went Geocaching but we could not find the cache so that sucked but it was a nice day and it was good to get out for a bit. Starting Sunday, I have four days off so I may try to do some more Geocaching then. I want to get out of this house for a while during those days off and I may go into Kyoto for a bit. We'll see. Anywho, I need to take off, see ya later!

Saturday, August 05, 2006


Last night/this morning, I witnessed one of the coolest, funniest events I have seen since coming to Japan. There is so much to tell so this post is going to run long. I am going to try to keep it short because I am typing this at 5:30am and have not been to sleep yet.

It all started with a really spiffy jog that I embarked upon around 10:30pm last night. I went on a path that ran along the river and was quite pleased with my self that I went from the start of the path to a big suspension bridge about a mile or so away with out stopping and making good time. I then decided to turn the jog into a decent walk that spanned the outer circumference of the entire town, about six miles in all. I was going to post about this jog to begin with because I jogged to the top of the castle that overlooks the town and went around the courtyard of it around 11:30pm and got a really good view. That and I was hit with the fact that here I am, jogging at almost midnight in the middle of summer with great weather, listening to Marilyn Manson on the iPod, and exploring a castle that was built 500 years ago. It was kind of one of those reminders that life can be whimsical and good. There was a light emanating from the top chamber of the castle and it felt as if a long dead shogun had come back to life and was watching me from above. I felt very in tune with history at that moment.

Anywho, with that as the high point of my jog, I was very satisfied of how the night turned out and was completing the jog/walk by going down the main street of the new part of Fukuchiyama. This is where the night got really interesting.

As I jogged down the street, I noticed a cop car on the side of the road in front of the main book/video/game/arcade/store in town. I didn't think much of it because cops do exist in my town and I do see them on occasion. Then I heard a sound. It was that distinct whine that a really nice crotch rocket makes when its doing about 90mph in the wrong lane of the main street in a town with two cops chasing after it. It was obvious there was no way the cops were going to catch that bike and I kept walking, thinking that was pretty cool and I had never seen a police chase while in Japan. Then it got better.

After the crotch rocket came an entire bike gang. There were six or seven bikes in all ranging from the variety built for speed to the visually tricked out bikes. One bike had a huge scoop that was the shape of a crescent moon that swooped over the passenger riding on the back and it was blue with a white racing stripe in the middle. There was another Kawasaki or Yamaha that looked like it had at one time been part of a presidential motorcade with a little Japanese flag waving on the front wheel well. The thing that got me was the fact that instead of just driving down the road, these bikes started doing circles in the middle of the intersection. They were messing up traffic and endangering people and they didn't seem to care. At one point, all of the bikes were revving their engines to a beat while the passengers in the back of the bikes were doing liquid dancing with their arms to the beat of the engines. It was pretty friggin' cool. But it didn't end there.

About this time, I decide that I really need to run back to my place and get my camera and come back on my bike. I have never seen anarchy on this scale and the cops totally helpless to stop it. I left about fifteen people gazing from the curb at the spectacle and sprinted as fast as I could back to my apartment about a mile away. I got to my apartment, grabbed a tea, my wallet, camera, and bike keys and dashed off once again.

As I headed back toward that side of town, all of the bike gang passed me with cops in tow. I figured I would still head to my original destination because they would be able to loop back if they stayed on the road they were on. And they did. Only this time, it was to an audience of 150-200 twenty-somethings hanging out on the curb calling all of their friends and taking pictures. More cops had also shown up by this time but that didn't matter. The crowd that was forming at what was quickly become the social event of the year was also a tad devious and conniving. At one point, when a cop took off after a biker, several kids jumped in front of the cop's path causing him to hit his brakes hard and swerve. They were trying to giving the biker time to escape. Many of the onlookers also must have thought a small riot was going to erupt because many of them were carrying kendo swords, pipes, and other materials that would make a good bitch stick. One kid also brought a Fisher-Price bow and arrow, the kind that shoot the arrows with a suction cup on the end, that made me laugh. He said he had archery practice to do, more laughing followed. It was later that he also told me he was a sex machine. After I told him that I too was a fellow sex machine he brought a girl over and told me that she indeed, was a sex machine as well. Talk of masturbation also ensued, at which point the girl smacked the guy and walked off, the night kept getting better.

By this point, the bike gang was gone but everyone was still hanging out. There were Mitsubishi Lancer Evos, Subaru WRX STIs, tricked out classic cars, and Honda S2000s with mods driving around at this point. The whole block was quickly turning into the set of Fast and Furious and I was in the middle of it. Someone even brought some fireworks to light off while waiting for the bikers to return. At least I think it was a firework, then again, it may have been a very spark-filled cigarette. Who knows? The entire time, the cops are on the other side of the street video taping the spectacle and calling their friends. It was 12:30am.

Around this time, one bike returned to the arena and began to show off. The guys on the bike even posed for me at one point but I did not get my camera up in time and missed them. I thought that was a nice gesture though coming from two guys that were breaking about every traffic law on record while trying to give me a good picture. Gotta love the hospitable and gracious Japanese.

All this time, the two guys on the bike continue to elude the cops and swerve all over creation. At one point, the cops tried to reach out and pull them off the bike but this attempt failed. Earlier in the evening, the bikers were actually speeding toward cops that were on foot and making them jump out of the way. That action alone could have gotten them shot in the States. The entire time this went on, I kept asking myself why were they not setting up roadblocks, stop strips, or anything? I never got an answer to that question. These bikers terrorized these cops for almost three hours and as far as I know, they never caught any of them. Oh yeah, one upside to being in a Japanese bike gang. Most Japanese people look alike with the exception of their faces. Therefore, if you take the plates off your ride and wear face masks, odds are your not getting caught. Best description of a bike rider last night, a Japanese guy with black hair, medium build, and had a white mask on. The only person that eliminates from the police lineup is me.

Toward the end of the night, more police showed up, totaling three paddy wagons, five cruisers, and two undercover cop cars. This was probably all of the Fukuchiyama police force, minus scooters. Yes, cops ride scooters here. Around 1:15am, one of the paddy wagons pulled up to the group of people I was standing by and the cops got out and started talking to them in not happy voices. It was then that I decided to head home and avoid any unhappy voices directed at me. Once in the cop and biker free safety of my apartment, I could still here the occasional bike revving up. I do not think it really stopped until around 3:30am.

During my stint in the audience, I took a bit of video on my camera that was pretty funny. If I can find a way to get it on here, I will post it for ya. I guess what I learned from tonight is that the police in my area are totally unprepared for minor anarchic situations. During the entire event, all they did was take pictures and video. They followed the bikers too but I think that was more to look busy than to make a difference; it wasn't like the bikers were going to pull over anytime soon and let their butts get dragged into jail.

All I know is if that happened in Idaho, there would have been cops trying to ram the bikes and setting out stop strips on the street. Knowing Boise, they probably also would have opened fire on the gang, especially when the bikers were gunning it toward them. I think maybe the plan was to disperse the crowd and without an audience to play to, the bikers would go away. Maybe this worked, maybe not, but I do not like talking to Japanese cops if I can help it, so I left.

I am going to go to bed now. Its 6am and I need sleep. That was just one of the funniest things I have seen since coming here and I wanted to share while it was all fresh in my mind. Good morning to you all and good night to me!

Friday, August 04, 2006

My Evil Day

Today, I set out on my adventure to get my bag that I left on the train a couple of days ago.

The bag had been located in a small town called Hojomachi/Kasai. Depending on what part of town your in depends on what the town is called...don't ask. I like Hojomachi because it has "Hojo" in the name. Either way, Hojomachi/Kasai is a little less than three hours away and I really wasn't looking forward to buy the train tickets to get there. Round trip was going to cost me almost $30 and I thought that was a tad high, seeing that I was going to get a piece of luggage and no more. It was while I was in my train station I started my day of evil.

Instead, of buying my ticket to a town called Ao that I was going to need to go to in order to get to the train to get me to Hojomachi and paying $12, I decided to try out a scheme I have been devising for a while. I bought a ticket for the lowest price possible, $1.80. This was enough to get me through the gate and on to my train. The fun part about the Japanese Railroad is that there are tons and tons of routes that are pointless and stations that are never manned. On these pointless routes, no one bothers to check your ticket during the ride. I made it to Ao on $1.80. Normally, this would not have worked because in order to go through the exit gate, I would have had to pay the full amount because the gate machines have scanners that can tell where your ticket originated from and how much fare you should have to pay. The upside to today's venture was that I never had to leave the station to get onto the Hojo Tetsudo line. I simply walked over a walkway and on to my other train. Sometimes, they post station workers at the doorways of the incoming trains but not today. So for that leg of the trip I spent $1.80 and this pleased me.

Legs two and three, I had to pay for. The train conductor collects money as you exit the vehicle and you can't really get around it. So now, this puts me back at Ao with lost luggage in hand and needing to jump another train for the return trip. I knew that I would have to stop at another station called, Tanikawa (no cool secondary name) and so I decided that instead of paying full price for a ticket to Fukuchiyama from Ao, I payed $5.70 for a ticket from Tanikawa. I am wise. Overall, I save about $12 on the trip and that made me happy. There are other ways to shaft the trains that I will get into some other time but are kind of sketchy and I have not done them. One is really cool, but its only good for people that live here and have a good knowledge of their area's train network. I will talk about that one later too.

Lastly, all of the stuff that made me antsy last night and caused me to lose my appetite through all of today has passed. I had to do someting slightly evil to get myself back on track again but now I am all better. What was bothering me? What evil thing did I do? I'm not going to say but I do feel better now. Sometimes tilting a little more to the Dark Side is fun and makes you feel good. Don't worry, I didn't off anyone or anything like that, this was more of an escapade than pure evil. Escapades and shinanagins are fun and do not cause harm, while true evil can cause physical and mental harm, at least thats my definition. :) This did neither of those. I am going to stop typing now or else I will give it away and I can't do that. :)

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Second Wind

Ok, I am not as spent as I thought I was. I am actually kind of wired now thanks to finding some stuff out. Yeah.

In about a week I get four days off. Yay, for me! The crappy part, the day before I go on my unrequested mini-break, Nine Inch Nails plays in Osaka. Beh. They are about the only band that I would like to see at least once. They are playing at Summer Sonic, the big music festival that I decided not to go to because no one I liked was going to show up. At least, no one that I wanted to spend $120.00 to go see. Now, Nine Inch Nails decided to show up too. Its almost tempting to call in sick and blow $120 to see them and a bunch of other bands. Nah, I will be a good boy.

Oh, I forgot to mention that I got a letter in the mail today that basically asked me whether or not I planned on hanging out here another year. I think I already know my reply but I am still pondering things. There are upsides and downsides to kicking around Japan another year but in the end, I will probably agree to another tour of duty. There is still stuff I have not seen. :)

Anywho, I am sorting music now so I need to get back to it. Later!

I'm Spent

Tomorrow will be the first time in nine days I have had the day off and I am so happy. I am to the point now where I have very little patients for the kids I am teaching and its not that they have been horrible, I am just tired.

Having said that, summer school went quite well and moved along quickly. I do not have a whole lot to say about it because aside from being a break from the norm, not a lot happened worth mentioning. For the past two days, I have been in a town called Kasai. Its a small town but the Japanese teacher there is very diligent and the kids lover here. They love her so much that almost every one of them attended summer school. This means big bucks for the company and a ton of work for her and I. Each day of summer school had six classes, my average up until that point had been three. Each class had an average of ten kids, my usual amount was five. Those were two long and hectic days. On top of that, the hotel I stayed at in Himeji sucked.

Usually, I stay at a place called the Sun Route Hotel and I love that place. For one reason or another they put me up in the Hotel Himeji and I hate that hotel. Its not a bad place, I just do not like it. The whole atmosphere there just rubs me the wrong way. That and the maids piss me off. When you put a "Do Not Disturb" sign out, that usually means "don't clean the friggin' room", unless you are in Japan. Then the sign means, "Maids, please wait impatiently until the guest leaves and then sneak in and clean it anyway." It drives me nuts. I know its good to be tidy and have fresh towels but seriously, when I have my laptop out and other valuables lying around, I would rather a maid not come in. The thing that irks me is not the fact that they gave me fresh towels and made the bed, but they also took the liberty to sort all of my stuff and straighten it too. They touched and moved my belongings when I told them not to come in in the first place and that makes me angry. Word to travelers in Japan, all Japanese hotels are like this. You may as well get used to having maids come into your room and straighten everything whether you like it or not.

Last night, I fell asleep on every train I rode to get back to the hotel and in my semi-conscious state, I forgot my suitcase on the first of three trains I had to ride back to Himeji. Fortunately, I was able to have someone get in touch with the train company and they found the bag and are holding it for me. I pretty much knew what train I left it on so it was easy to track down. I am going to take a nice scenic ride tomorrow to go get it.

Anywho, I am back home now and tomorrow will be a relaxing day. On Saturday, I teach three classes here in town and then I have another three days off. It will be nice to have everything mellow out a tad. I wish I had more to say but I am kind of brain-fried and the creativity tap has run dry. I figured I should just let everyone know that I am alive. I will post again tomorrow and maybe then, I will have more to say. Night Night!