Friday, September 29, 2006

The Wee Ones Vs The Gigantic Mogwai

This week I have felt like a monster from a Godzilla movie. The relentless sales team for Peppy Kids has scrounged up enough little tykes to add another couple of handfuls of classes to my schedule and this past week has been the first time for me to meet the new students. This is one of my favorite parts of the job.

Several of the new classes are really small kids, like three and four year olds and for many of them, I am their first experience with a Westerner. Usually, the first classes go something like this:

Phase 1: (Duration 10 minutes) The Shock and Awe Phase

The wee ones approach the class room door and usually before they come in, they see me. Ninety-nine percent of the kids will stop dead in their tracks and do one of three things. A)They weep upon the sight of my greatness B)They cower behind their mothers, in fear of my greatness or C)They stand frigid, like statues, in the doorway, petrified by my greatness. In all of the classes I have had, only three of the little kids just treated me like another grown-up on their first day. The rest of them, are usually traumatized by the event and in some cases, emotionally scarred.

Phase 2: (Duration 5 minutes) The White Giant Phase

At some point in the first ten to fifteen minutes of class, I have to stand up. With the little classes meeting me for the first time, I try to put off doing this for as long as possible. Any kind of report as a friendly, non-threatening guy, I have established with kids can go out the window as soon as I stand up. Up until this point, I have been scooching around on my knees, staying at their height. This makes them comfortable and me, easier to deal with. The moment they realize that I stand a good three feet taller than any of them, they have issues. Usually, after a few minutes they get over this and understand that not only am I godlike in personality but I also have the size to go with it. And I am white.

Phase 3: (Duration, remainder of class and sometimes for the rest of their lives) The Friendly Giant Phase

After the first fifteen or twenty minutes of class, the kids have made up their minds about me. Most of them have figured out by this point that though I am white and tall and have a funny laugh and speak a funny language, I am a pretty good guy. Most people tell me that I am really good with kids and evidently there is some merit to it. Some of the kids think I am weird, I know this because they call me "the weird or interesting teacher" to my face and that is how they refer to me when speaking to their parents. Frankly, if the kids realize this so young, I consider them to be quick learners. But in the end, almost all of them end up liking me and think I am fun to hang out with.

And then there are the other children. For one reason or another, there are a percentage of kids that I absolutely terrorize without meaning to. I am reasonably certain that when they close their eyes at night, they see me and are unable to sleep. I would also guess that they curl into a fetal position and simply rock back and forth until morning. I feel for these kids but at the same time, I am intrigued by them.

In another one of my classes, I have a boy named, Takumi. I like Takumi because he cracks me up. He is five or six and looks like a little old man. Even when he is happy, he looks like he is in pain and when he speaks, he does so with the voice of a veteran smoker. But most days, Takumi cries. I know it is because of my greatness that he sheds numerous tears but I find it very funny that he is not taken aback by the Japanese teacher's greatness, only mine. Some days are better than others but most of the time, in the sixty minutes I have with him, he spends forty-five of them crying in the corner of the room. I never did anything to this kid and if anything, I have been overly nice to him. Why do I scare him so badly?

There is at least partially a reason that some children are inherently frightened of me and it has to do with the Japanese school system. In elementary school, there are no male teachers. It is Japanese tradition that only females teach the kids until they are at least in junior high. Even then, men are in the minority of teachers. Once the kids hit high school, male teachers are pretty common. But back in elementary schools, it is almost unheard of to have a male teacher. Therefore, I am usually the first male authority figure these kids have other than their dad. Another reason I stand out to the kids is because I am white. Unlike the United States and Canada, Japan has very few non-Japanese educators. Meaning, almost every person those kids deal with in school is Japanese. Junior highs and high schools will have the occasional Western, assistant teacher for English classes but to have a full-time Western teacher is again, something that almost never happens. It also does not help that some, not all of these kids, come from families that are still uncomfortable with the idea of Westerns coming to Japan and quite honestly, are not fond of whitey.

In the end though, most of my kids at least find me funny, in good and bad ways. If I can make the kids laugh, I can teach them. Fortunately for me, not one of the new kids I have had this week has cried when confronted with the omniscient magnificence that is me. This means that I have made about twenty-five new friends this week. I still have two more new classes tomorrow so there is still a chance I will terrify someone but I have high hopes that this will not be the case. The only good thing that comes from creeping the kids out is that I never have discipline problems with them but I don't think they learn as much as they could be. Next week, I have another slew of new classes in another one of my schools so we will also see how that turns out.

Some of you wanted to see the picture that I picked up in Tokyo so here it is:

The title of the work is, "Mystery Island" and the artist is a women that goes my Clyd or Clyv, her signature is weird. Its frame is made of cherrywood and its a tad more orange than my wood flooring but goes well with the room. I think I like the picture because deep down inside, I have always wanted my own island to chill on. To me, the person in the boat is going home to hang out with all of their friends or family and get away from the rest of the world. Its seclusion but its seclusion with all of those you love and care for, I like it.

Anywho, I will update tomorrow as to how the last batch of new kids took to me. Later.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Home Again, Home Again

I returned from Tokyo the day before yesterday and overall, the trip was pretty cool.

On Sunday, I went to Harajuku and Shinjuku to see some stuff I had never seen in my previous two jaunts to Tokyo.

First, Harajuku. Harajuku is a girl's shopping dream. The entire area is pretty much all women's fashion but more specifically, teenage women's fashion. If you want to get a good idea of the size and scope of a high school girl's shopping rampage in Tokyo, come to Harajuku. But on Sunday, I did not go there to be witness to the shopping frenzy that overcame the youthful lasses, I went to take a look at the Cosplayers and the Meiji shrine. Steph, I am going to guess that this was similar to the link you left in my comments but that link didn't work. But odds are, if there is anything people take pics of in Harajuku, its the Cosplay kids. For the uninitiated, cosplay is basically the act of dressing up like your favorite Japanese cartoon character and parading yourself around for the tourists to snap pictures at. There is a bridge very close to Harajuku station that all of the cosplayers like to hang out at on Sundays. Here are some pics:

These are some of the tamer outfits I have seen. Cosplay is a fairly common hobby amongst Japanese of all ages, there are stores that cater to it and if there is an anime character out there, odds are you can buy all of the accessories to dress up just like him or her. Honestly, I think the people that do this are a tad off the deep end but I suppose it just like dressing up for Halloween...every couple of days. What's even scarier is the fact that some love hotels and hostess bars here are also dedicated to anime and cosplay, so all of the weird, horny men can act out all of their fantasies with someone either dressed up like a cartoon character or in a hotel that looks like a set out of a cartoon.

After Harajuku, I went a couple of stops over to Shinjuku. Shinjuku comes in two flavors depending on what side of the neighborhood you are on. On one side, you have all of the big business buildings and skyscrapers. You will also find the Tokyo Metropolitan Government buildings here. On the other side of Shinjuku, you run into the biggest redlight district in Japan. All of those business guys and politicians have to go somewhere after work, right?

For my trip, I stayed on the skyscraper side of town. It was here I found a place that has some of the best Indian food I have ever eaten and it was buffet style to boot. It was kind of pricey but for what you got and the quality of the food it was worth it. What was funny about the place was on the outside of the building, it just looked like another building in Tokyo but when you got to the fifth floor, where the restaurant was located, it was totally decked out in Indian woodwork and had a very cool ambiance. Oh yeah, the place was called, Raj Mahal. Mr. Blue, when you come, we are going there.

After that, I went to a bookstore and finally was able to by some books and magazines I had been looking for. Then I went to check out this place:

This is the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building #1. This is basically the heart of the Japanese government. Most people either love this building or they hate it. It has been called everything from an eyesore to architectural genius. Personally, I like it. I also like its sibling, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building #2:

Unlike all of our government buildings, TMG #1 lets you go up to the 45th floor of both of its towers for an amazing view of Tokyo. On a crystal clear day you can see Mt. Fuji from there but due to the smog and some very thin clouds, no Fuji-san for me. One does not realize how friggin' huge Tokyo is until you see it like this, its simply amazing that one city can stretch almost as far as the eye can see. Take a look for yourself, these are some of the pics that I took from both towers and they cover almost a 360 degree view of the city, sorry about the glare:

After all of the walking I did, after all of the sight-seeing I went back to my hotel and crashed rather early. The next day, I got up, packed all of my stuff, and checked out of my hotel. I made my way to a store near Tokyo station that had a painting I saw two days earlier. It caught my eye the first time I went to the store but I refrained from buying it straight away. After a day of deliberation I decided that it would make a nice addition to my apartment and snagged it. Then it was off to Tokyo station to catch my train home. I snapped this pic right before my train pulled into the station:

All of the really nice trains have their own cleaning crews that go in after the train reaches its final destination on each end of the route that it runs. The line of pink that is running down the ramp is all of the women preparing to board and clean their assigned car. There are a couple of blue uniforms in there too and those guys are the technicians that make sure the train is still in tip top shape for the return trip. I had never seen them all come out at the same time like that before so I thought it was kind of cool and had to snap a picture.

That pretty much sums up my Tokyo weekend! Now, it is back to teaching for a few months until Christmas break. I have had a bunch of new classes added to my schedule to I have been meeting new students the past couple of days. Most of them seem nice but I think one of my new classes is going to be a handful. Oh well, once I break them in they should be alright.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

TGS 2006 and Akihabara: The Ultimate Nerdy Day

I have had a really long day today and do not horribly feel like making a huge post that TGS deserves but I will try my best. Bare with me.

The Tokyo Game Show or TGS opened to the public today and there were plenty of people that were bustling about trying to get in.

This was the line:

When I saw that line of poor nerds wasting away for tickets, I told myself that there was no way I was waiting that long, not a chance. Fortunately, unlike the bazillion people in line, I planned ahead and went to the TGS website and downloaded the form to get an advanced ticket at a discounted rate. All I had to do was show this nice lady inside one of the buildings my paper and after paying, I got my ticket. The entire thing took less than ten minutes which is about four times better than what the people in line were making out.

Here is my ticket:

Now, though I disliked the looks of long line, I did get possibly my favorite picture of the entire excursion. Mario, like all plumbers, is a working class, beer and cig kind of guy. I have always known this in my heart but today, I got proof.

I love that pic.

Anywho, once inside, I felt a tad like I was in that movie, The Wizard, when they all walk into the Nintendo World Championships. This is what greeted the attendees.

Once through the gate, I was free to roam the convention and oogle some of the new games and whatnot. It was fun for about the first half and hour and then it got kind of old. I think I could have played the PS3 or at least looked at it but I was not going to wait 90 mins. to do so. I guess I am just not that hardcore. But I did get to see some very impressive video of a war game that has battles in it that are on par with some from the Lord of The Rings movies as far as magnitude goes. It looked great and if other PS3 games look as good or better, it will be a pretty system to play. That being said, I still think the system is too expensive and will do poorly because of it. At least until Sony decides to drop the price. Sony did announce that the PS3 would be cheaper in Japan than in the US. The PS3 will retail here for about $460.00.

My main goal of for the trip was to play the Wii. That did not happen. In order for that to happen, Nintendo would have had to of shown up for the convention and they were no where in sight. Personally, I think that is a stupid move on their part. Both Sony and Microsft had a huge showing and for Nintendo to not even be there, that says something. I partially think this is because Nintendo is very focused on American sales more than Japanese sales at the moment. After all, they are releasing the Wii in the United States first and the US will also see more units than Japan will. I hope Nintendo does not leave its Japanese fan base in the cold because Japan is the reason Nintendo even has a leg to stand on right now as far as money goes. Weekly, the Nintendo DS Lite sells four to five times as many units as the PSP in Japan. There are some weeks where every other console on the market combined doesn't sell as many units as the DS Lite alone does and this is why Nintendo is still in the running at all. Anywho, enough about the lack of Nintendo, I am just a tad irked about it at the moment.

I got to play the upcoming Harvest Moon 2 for the DS and it looks nice. You control the character's movment with the use of the touch pen and sometimes, if you have big hands like me, that means that the view of the game gets a tad obscured by your paws. After a few minutes, I was able to adjust a tad so it wasn't so bad but it was kind of annoying. The game looks like it will be a nice addition to the Harvest Moon family though.

The game that I really enjoyed playing was a game called, PaperMan. It's a first person shooter but its a very creative and fun take on the worn out genre. In the game, you control a character that looks very cute and anime-ish from the front but us almost two dimensional from the side. You are made out of paper. The game is very Japanese, graphically, and you get all of the standard weapons you would expect a shooter to have. Its very fun and the graphics on top of some play tweaks due to the two dimensional characters make for a fresh game that I think will attract the people that are looking for something to play at a party rather than hardcore gamers looking to kill realistic looking creatures and characters. I enjoyed it and was assured that it would reach American soil. They also gave me a shirt, a poster, some snacks, and little light-up hearts to wear on my head.

Overall, while I am glad I went to TGS, I was kind of let down by it. Perhaps I expected too much, perhaps I am just not enough of a video game fan to stand in line play a game that I can't buy and may never be able to. I did enjoy looking at all of the booth bunnies though. Its amazing how the Japanese can and will use sex to sell anything and everything. Here are a couple of examples:

Ok, so that last one was a cat and not very sexy at all, but still cute and fun to look at.

After TGS, I headed to Akihabara for a look around and explored a bunch of new areas there that I have never checked out. I also played tour guide to a couple of guys and showed them the stores that sold English games. For the first time ever, I did not by one thing for myself while there. There just wasn't a ton that I wanted that I couldn't get in Fukuchiyama or online. It was kind of sad. But all in all, it was a fun time and I had a good day. If you want to know about specific titles I saw at TGS just drop me a line and I will tell you what I saw. I also shot some video that I may try to get on here. It shows everything off rather nicely.

I am not sure what I am going to do tomorrow. I had planned to go to TGS again if I needed to but now I don't think that will be necessary. I think tomorrow I will go watch the Cosplay kids in Harajuku and go explore Shinjuku a little. If I see anything fun, I will update tomorrow night as well. Night Night!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Tokyo Weekend

Its finally here!

Tomorrow morning I will take the train into Kyoto and then get on the Nozomi bound for Tokyo. The cool part is that the entire trip will take four hours. It takes two hours for me to go to Kyoto and in the same amount of time, I will go from Kyoto to Tokyo. That Nozomi hauls ass. I will take pics of it for people to see because the train seriously looks like a jet on rails.

On Saturday, I will go to TGS, again taking lots of pictures and letting everyone know how the new games are looking. I am hoping I get to try out the Wii, that is my big goal for that part of the trip. I will also hit up Akihabara and also Shinjuku. In all of the trips that I have taken to Tokyo, I have never been to Shinjuku so this time I am going. I am so excited right now, I am just glad not to be teaching for a few days and relaxing in a really nice hotel as well. It will also be nice to see Tokyo at my own pace and go where and when I want to go.

Anywho, not a lot else to report, I may have internet in my hotel and if I do I will probably post again tomorrow or Saturday! Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Taking Responsibility

Japan is a funny place sometimes.

I just finished reading an article about how one of the professional sumo wrestlers is retiring from the sport because he hit an opponent who beat him after the match had finished. As a way to take responsibility for his actions, he is quitting his career voluntarily. He submitted his resignation to the body that governs sumo wrestling and wrote an apology to his trainer for bringing shame to his trainer and the stable of sumo that he trains with.

All of this because he slapped a man.

Now think about American baseball. How many brawls have you seen in which entire teams of players clear the dugout and charge the opposing team? How many times have you seen a batter charge the pitcher's mound after being beaned accidentally or otherwise?

Now hockey. How many fights have you seen on TV between two hockey players? I remember one incident where the guy was beating the crap out of an opponent with his stick. Screw slapping a guy once in the face, this guy was full on hacking the other player with a wooden stick.

I am not even touching the issue of cheap shots in boxing.

Even basketball is no stranger to a good brawl here and there.

I guess my point is that if the sense of dignity and responsibility that pervades athletes and people in general here in Japan were to ever cross the Pacific Ocean, there would be no one left to play professional sports in the US. The Japanese have an extreme awareness of shame. If a Japanese person thinks they have shamed their company, school, team, and heaven forbid, family, they will go to extreme lengths to redeem themselves. Or at the very least, to keep the shame they have brought on themselves from spilling onto their family, friends, teammates, and coworkers. If it means quitting the thing you love, that is the price you pay for your actions. In reality, its not that big of a price when you consider how much ritualistic suicide intermingles with the rest of Japanese culture. During WWII it was very difficult to take Japanese prisoners; most of them would kill themselves before Allied forces even came close to capturing them. On one of the Southern islands, I forget which, there is a huge tunnel complex that the Japanese used during the war and when you see pictures of it, it looks like a huge close-quarters gun fight took place throughout the tunnel system. What really happened is hundreds of Japanese soldiers killed themselves when it became evident that they could no longer defend the island.

Another interesting thing to look into is the numbers of lawsuits between private Japanese citizens. In the States, suing someone is basically considered your God given right that must be exercised the very instant someone offends you. In Japan, lawsuits between private citizens are very low. Unfortunately, the numbers are increasing annually but compared to the United States, virtually no one sues another person here. If an accident happens or you offend someone, you apologize and strive to make things right. Once you have apologized or paid a reasonable price for your actions, the ordeal is behind you and both parties move on. The courts are not usually involved. Sometimes, simply saying you are sorry will avert legal action. The Japanese legal system has actually been know to issue lesser punishments to people that have apologized sincerely to all of the parties involved.

I guess I am just kind of inspired by the whole thing. If it were one person that were taking responsibility and that was an isolated incident, I would not be writing this post. Japanese people as a whole put a much higher value on responsibility, shame, and integrity than Westerners do and its sad that we don't think more about our actions in terms of how the Japanese view things. At the very least, it would help out the American legal system a ton.

Monday, September 18, 2006

A Date-Kind-Of-Thing In Kyoto

Today, I met Maya in Kyoto and spent the day hanging out and shopping with her. It was fun!

Amongst the finds was a store that sells only books about Japan or by Japanese authors but all in English. They had a ton of books there that I was interested in but thought better of buying due to my Tokyo trip on Friday. Maya and I ate lunch at a cafe that was named Tip The Giraffe or something like that with the word "giraffe" in the title. It was a good lunch; I had a dish called Hayashi rice which I can only describe as the Japanese version of chili and it was really good. Maya had a shrimp sandwich and French fries. After much debate, I paid for the lunch against her wishes but thought it only right seeing that she bought me lunch last time we went out. She was only happy when I told her she could pick up the bill next time we went out. And yes, there will be a next time.

Evidently, Japanese men are not known for their culinary expertise oustide of the select few that appeared on Iron Chef a few years ago. It looks as if I will end up making dinner for her and her friend when they come over for a movie night. I am not exactly sure how thats going to work seeing how I only have one good chair and one very uncomfortable chair and my bed as far as furniture goes. To top it off, my laptop doesn't have the biggest screen known to man so we are all going to have to sit kind of close to it in order to see. I suppose sacrifices will need to be made and we will all have to share the bed, darn. If Maya's friend looks anything like her, I will somehow find a way to cope with the cramped space I may find myself in despite the hardship. Or, reality sets in and I get the really uncomfortable chair while someone gets the nice chair and someone else gets the bed to sit on and we all scooch everything really close in so we can see the laptop screen. Either way, it will be fun.

Going into the day, I wasn't sure whether this was a "pity the lonely white guy" outing or a "I am helplessly enthralled in the white guy's manly charm and wit" actual date. Coming out of the day, I think it may have been a combination of the two but more heavily leaning toward the latter. While roaming through one of the shopping areas she told me I was cute in a very Japanese roundabout, kind of coy way. We were talking about babies and how she thought that Western babies were very cute because they have such big eyes and whatnot and then she told me she thought I was cute. I replied that she wasn't too bad herself and she just kind of giggled. As I said a post or two ago, this woman shows promise and now I know she at least has good taste in men. :P

The day didn't end in any glamorous fashion and I didn't really expect it to. We were both tired from walking around for almost five hours and I saw to it that she made it to her car witout any problems and that was pretty much that. We said goodbye, she left on four wheels, me on two. Overall, I am very satisfied how the day turned out and look forward to hanging out with her some more, she is fun to be around.

Looking forward, I have three teaching days this week and then its Tokyo for me. I bought my shinkansen tickets today for the excursion so I am all set as far as expenses go. The hotel is covered and now the trains are too. Its time to coast through the week and then crash into my favorite city this weekend for several days of video games at TGS, exploring in Akihabara, Double Bacon Cheeseburgers at Wendys, and relaxing evenings in a comfy bed at my hotel, reading newly purchased books and magazines in English from Tower Records in Shibuya. Life is pretty damn good right now from where I am sitting.

I leave you with a laid back sunset pic from a laid back street in Kyoto, have a good day, I know I did.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A Typhoon Of A Party

I just got back home from the going away party of a couple of co-workers who have decided to go back to the real world. It was in Himeji so I had to stay the night and then make my way back today. The party was fun and had more people crammed into a small space than I have ever seen before. The neighbors were not thrilled with us but we really weren't being that loud, maybe they should build apartments with thicker walls instead of these partitions I could punch through if I desired.

During the party, a typhoon creeped in a dumped a ton of water on the area and is still doing so today. Its always fun to see the sidewalk areas turned into small ditches with water flowing down them like the sidewalk was an aquaduct instead of a pedestrian thoroughfaire.

When I got back into town, I ran by my classroom and right before I got there I was accosted by two Mormon women who, in Japanese were asking me all about my faith and where I was from. I played very dumb hoping they would go away but they were persistant and would not let language be a barrier for me to hide behind. I told them I was from Idaho and low and behold, out walks a kid that was from Burley and instantly wanted to be my pal. I wasn't trying to be rude but by the time one of them ran in to fetch this guy, I was getting short-tempered and just wanted them to go away. Thanks to Peppy, I will probably have to deal with them all the time now because my new classroom is right above their little Mormon church. Lucky me. You can never run far enough away that a missionary will not be able to bother you, it makes me weep.

Tomorrow, I am headed into Kyoto for my little date thingy with Maya and that should be fun. I hope the weather is better than it is now if we are going to go temple viewing, if not, there is always shopping.

I also found out today that the Nintendo Wii will NOT be region free as previously thought so it looks like when I come back to the States, I will be snagging another one. Here's to a modchip for the little bugger.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

More Wii News

Nintendo released more information about the new Wii console yesterday and while part of it ticks me off, the other part makes me happy so it all evens out.

First, the system will be released in the US two weeks before its released in Japan. Personally, I think thats a crock but what do you do? At least when it comes out here, all of the internet functions will be enabled while the US release will have almost no internet functionality on day one.

Second, this is the part that makes me very happy, the Wii will be region free. For the non-gamers out there that means I can buy games from the US and Japan and both will be able to play on my machine without me installing a mod chip. I think this will also hold true with Gamecube games as well.

Other news that came out was that the system will have an SD card slot for storage which means that I will probably pick up a cheap two or four gig SD card for the system. I am really excited for the Wii to come out now, I wish I just didn't have to wait to get it. I think it will be a truly new gaming experience and I am all for it.

Nice Ride

Today was a pretty nice day. The weather was that weird calm kind of weather before it rains; it was warm and there wasn't a single gust of wind to be found. So, I went for a bike ride.

Each time I go for an actual ride, I tend to stray further and further from home. Today's ride almost found me coasting into the next town over from my own. I found out that my own city stretches out much further than I thought and went into several stores I had never seen before. Overall, it was a pleasant day of exploration. I think I enjoyed it so much because everything was so quiet and time seemed to be moving so slowly. Nishiki-san also performed quite well, having never been on that long of a ride before.

I also had a brief bout of homesickness as I rode past a field that was being burned. It smelled a lot like I know Boise is smelling like right now and I used to love that smell this time of year when I lived there. I do not get homesick often so that was different for me. I miss stuff from Boise but I usually don't get really homesick. I have come to the conclusion that had I lived two or three hundred years ago, I would have been an explorer or pioneer. To me, discovering new places and things is much more emotional and fufilling than missing places I have already been. I think its easy for me to travel because I never get really connected to wherever I am living at the time. My apartment is "home" but that is because I sleep there at night, it doesn't really feel like my home though. Even my old house that I used to own never really felt like home, I could never get comfortable and feel at ease in it. That could have been for a few different reasons but it struck me today that I haven't felt at home in a specific place in a very long time. In fact the last time I really felt at home was in Phyrry's old house. I am not sure why but I could get so comfortable there and its not like I went there a ton, odd.

Anywho, I had a nice ride and then stopped by McDonalds to get a dinner that wasn't very good. Tonight was the first time I have had McDonalds in weeks and its almost like I do not even have a taste for it anymore. Thats creepy because I used to love that place. It doesn't help though that I went to the McDonalds where everyone is kind of rude to me. My town has three McDonalds, one is super friendly, one is neutral, and one is filled with jerks that pretend to not understand me even though I know I am speaking perfect Japanese for ordering food. When people pretend not to understand me and I know I am speaking correctly, it pisses me off because its not often that I am sure I am speaking correctly so when I do, I like the interaction with the other party to go off without a hitch. That never happens at this McDonalds, ever. And to top it off, they talk about me when they don't think I can hear them and I know they don't think I can understand them so they say some not very nice things sometimes. Grrr....and the whole thing that triggered that tonight was because initially, I said the word "large" like I would say it to an American and not like the Japanese pronounce it.

All in all though, today was a nice relaxing day, despite the McJerkoffs.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


I just noticed that this site surpassed 10,000 hits the other day. Nutty. As for the counter on the sidebar showing 4,000 some odd hits, those are unique visitors and that doesn't count repeat visits. I have been averaging 5,000 hits a year, thats kind of spiffy.

Its not that I write on this for the pageviews, sometimes the stats for the page just amuse me. So anywho, way to go Mogwai's Mind and your 10,000 hits!

In other news, the new prince has been given a name, Hisahito. The characters that make up the name mean, "virtuous, calm, and everlasting" according to the Japanese news. The ceremony only took about five minutes and involved the boy's father writing his name on a peice of washi or traditional Japanese paper and then handing it to an Imperial chamberlain who put the paper in a special box and laid it on the boy's pillow. The name of the ceremony is Meimei no Gi for those that are curious.

Its Getting Colder

Yay, that means Fall is almost here. Its about time too, I am getting sick of Summer and long for my favorite time of the year. Fall also means that all of my favorite TV shows are getting ready to serve themselves up for my downloading pleasure.

Not a ton has gone on this week so far. I am trying to save for Tokyo next week so I have been doing Jack and Squat other than teaching. Speaking of which, my kids have been nutty lately and I am not sure why. They just started back to school from their Summer break and that could be part of it and in the class I am in this week, we changed locations and this class is much bigger than the older one and that could also contribute to behavior issues. My kids are basically ignoring me until I get mad and raise my voice enough for them to get the idea they should stop goofing off. I have been having to yell more lately and that irritates me. Oh well, maybe they will calm down soon.

I ran into Maya today. She actually stopped by my classroom to get supplies for her own which is kind of odd because her class is in another district. Either way, she says we are still on for Monday so thats cool.

Speaking of cool, I sent my favorite non-related grandmother a little goody box today. I am referring to Old Grandma Hardcore here, she rocks and deserves Japanese candies and a little accessory for her DS Lite for being such a badass and smoking the other grandparents at Grandparents' Day at Nintendo World in New York. Congrats again, Grandma!

Anywho, just thought I should post something to prove I am still amongst the living. I am so excited for Fall to get here, I love the change it brings and the weather too. Today was the first day in months that I wore my hoody to keep warm. Yay for the Fall!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

New Bike, New Friend

With the kidnapping of my Butterfly Battle, I was heartbroken...and walking everywhere. Lately, there has been a ton of rain and that makes walking much less fun and so I broke down and bought a new bike. The sticker on my black beauty says "Nishiki" so I have named my bike, Nishiki-san. It is a huge step up from the Butterfly but it sits much lower to the ground. Nishiki-san is the bicycle equivalent to a low rider truck but its a much smoother ride than a lower rider truck.

Meet Nishiki-san:

As you can see, its got a joint on the handlebars as well as the frame that lets the bike collapse on itself in the event that I needed to cram it in a car or suitcase. The best part of this bike is that with the new lock I picked up for it, the total cost of Nishiki-san is $83.00. For the extra money, I picked up a much smoother riding bike and it also climbs hills better than the Butterfly due to its smaller wheels. So there you have it, my new bike.

Next up is my new friend. A few days ago, I got a call from one of my Japanese teachers telling me that she had a friend that would like to meet me and possibly hook me up with some more teaching opportunities. So I called this woman and talked with her a bit and we arranged to meet today for lunch. Her name is Maya and she teaches in the Kyoto area.

Maya and I had a good lunch and talked about tons of stuff. Things I have learned about Maya: 1)She is twenty-four. 2)She doesn't smoke. 3)She still lives at home. 4) She's single. 5)She lives in my town. 6)She has nice teeth. 7)She is overall, pretty good looking. 8)We both like a lot of the same stuff. To sum it up, possibilities exist here. When I say possibilities, I mean that I am meeting her in Kyoto on Monday, visiting some temples with her, shopping, and buying her lunch. The best part, it was all her idea. Except for the lunch part, that was mine because she bought me lunch today. Things are looking up considering the last women that took me out to lunch were in their fifties and insisted on me calling them Aunties. This Monday may be more like an actual date or it may be more like an "Oh, he doesn't have any friends and is looking for something to do so I will take him along with me" kind of thing. Either way, it should be cool and if its the latter, mercy date scenario, I am appreciative because she's right. Whatever the outcome, she has more promise than pretty much anyone else I have encountered in the past few months.

So, I am in good spirits because I have a new bike and a date-ish kind of thing lined up with a cool girl. Its a shame that I have to wait a week to see how that goes. But for now, I am going to pass the time by eating dinner.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

My Pic Site is Updated

Just a note to let everyone know that I have updated the site dedicated to all of my pictures I have taken. In this update, you can see pics of Kobe, Himeji Castle, Akihabara, and Shibuya. I have pretty much finished sorting all of my pictures so expect even more updates to my Multiply site in the upcoming days.

Nothing Good Can Come of Himeji

As much as I like it's castle, shopping, and everything else, I have decided that Himeji is a bad place for me. Everytime I go there, I drink too much. Last night, was nowhere near the ballpark of a few weeks ago but I still drank too much. I think Himeji does that to me just because I do not have much of an outlet for that kind of thing in Fukuchiyama so when I visit, I go a tad nuts.

The reason for the drinking was at least a noble one, my group picked up a new teacher and we were breaking him in. His name is Jon and he is pretty cool, he has been in Himeji for a few days now and already, everyone in the bar likes him. I think it has something to do with fresh blood in the water.

Anywho, I went out last night and went to bed around 2am. I woke up at 7:30am to just my train back to Fukuchiyama and then jumped another train to get to my class by noon. That kind of travel wears me out and I am not sure why. The trains are relaxing and I like the scenery but when I have to take six of seven trains in a day, it starts to drag.

In other news, I got a new bike. This one is like a Bentley compared to the Butterfly Battle and it was only $65.00. Its called Nishiki and is one of those models that can fold up and get stowed away somewhere if need be. The only drawback to this one was whoever assembled it, put a part on that was making the bike chain clank against it everytime the chain moved. After some strategic bending, no more noise and I have a cool bike. And no, I have yet to take it off any sweet jumps. I will post pics of it tomorrow perhaps but for now, its sleepy time.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Visitors and a Baby Boy!

Reid and Karie came to visit me! They showed up mid-afternoon on Sunday and they just now took off for Takaoka; it was fun hanging out with them for a few days. When they showed up, all of us had grand schemes for what we wanted to do and accomplish while they were here and what ended up happening was a three day lazy-fest.

We spent the time sitting around the house and playing each other on our Nintendo DSs; I broke down a bought a black DS Lite. Man, if you are considering buying a DS Lite and have been hesitant because you have one of the old school DS's, the Lite is worth the upgrade. The difference in screen brightness alone makes the DS Lite a good deal. Anywho, we played a lot of multiplayer Mario Kart DS, watched a lot of movies, and listened to a lot of music. Basically, we didn't do much but it was fun.

One thing we did talk about a bit was the upcoming Thailand trip. We are definitely staying on the island of Phuket and we are definitely doing an elephant ride through the jungle. If everything goes right, we will be doing the elephant ride through the jungle while wearing Santa hats and listening to "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" on our iPods. If you have never seen pictures of Phuket, you should Google it and take a look. The beaches there look amazing!

Now that they have left, I teach one class today in Miyazu and then head back here. Its pouring at the moment and is the coolest it has been here in months. I think Fall is finally trying to decide if it wants to boot Summer out of the driver's seat for a bit. The only downside to all of this rain is my total lack of a bike. If it keeps up like this, I may have to spring for one before Tokyo. I hate walking in the rain for miles.

In other news, Princess Kiko had a baby boy this morning! This new birth breaks the chain of ten female births in a row within the Imperial family and finally gives Japan a male heir to the Imperial throne. They have not released his intended name yet but have said that he weighed in at 5.6lbs and is doing well. If the family follows tradition, he will be named in a ceremony on the seventh day of his life. The reason this is such a big event is because in Japan, it is illegal for a female to ascend to the throne. The only time the Empress has controlled Japan has been in the event that there was no immediate male heir and she acted as a place filler until he was found. The last time a female sat on the Imperial throne was in 1763 so its not a very common event.

Now that a boy has been born, the debate as to whether or not Japan should revise the laws to make it legal for a female to take the throne will probably die down. Had Princess Kiko not had a boy, there was going to be a push to make it legal for the oldest prince's first daughter, Aiko who is almost five years old, to eventually succeed her grandfather, father, and then uncle to take the throne of Japan. Now this will probably not happen. When the current reigning emperor, Akihito either steps down or dies, his oldest son Naruhito will ascend to the throne. If something happens to Naruhito before his father dies or decides to hand over the reigns, the younger son, Prince Akishino will then take the throne. What will probably end up happening is Akihito will eventually hand over power to his oldest son, Naruhito and then once Naruhito decides to hand over the throne, depending on how old his dad is at the time and his health, the boy that was born this morning would then become Emperor if his father was not able to or did not want to ascend.

It will probably be a very strange life for this boy. He has two older sisters, Princess Mako who is 14 and Princess Kako who is 12. They will probably do the whole older sibling pecking order routine and boss him around like any older sister would do to their younger brother but in the end, he means more to Japan and will have more power than either of them when he gets older. Right now, that kid is less than three hours old and his entire life has pretty much been laid out for him. When he takes the throne, his birthday will become a national holiday and he will carrie on a tradition and bloodline that has lasted for more than 2000 years.

So here is my question to you: Would you like growing up knowing that you really don't have to make any major life decisions and you will want for nothing or would you feel trapped and suffocated by the life you were born into? This baby's mother has suffered hardcore depression because of the life of seclusion that has basically been wrapped around her. Will he be the same way? One thing is for certain, like it or not, he will lead a life very different than almost anyone else in the world. The Princes in England may be able to relate but their lives are much more public than what this boy's will be. The Imperial family of Japan is a very low-key and withdrawn one and usually the public doesn't hear too much about them unless they want to be seen or heard.

Good luck in your life, little guy; you will lead an interesting one for sure.

Saturday, September 02, 2006


You ever wake up on a Monday and somehow, you have been cosmically endowed with the knowledge that your week is going to be less than stellar? That was my Monday morning. I could just feel it, the dread welling from within. I knew this week was going to kind of suck. And it did. Mind you, it was not a horrible week but it just wasn't great. Where to begin.

Okay, this was my dream that I had last night. So I am at Costco; right off, no good can come of this. I am on vacation from Japan and I explain to this guy I am helping that I normally live in a town called Fukuchiyama and I am on vacation. He then tells me that his wife taught in that town as well and starts to get all buddy buddy with me because he found the one thread of life we have in common. This is a messed up dream for a couple of reasons just based on the little bit I have told you. First, why on God's green and fertile Earth would I be working at Costco for my friggin' vacation? Second, I hate customers that try to be all friendly because they have found out some minute detail about your life that they can relate to. They start acting like their your best friend because they found out that your grandparents lived in the same town that their second cousin got drunk and screwed a goat in. I hate people who try to be my friend when they hardly know me and the stuff they do know about me is some set of minute tedious facts. Anywho, back to the dream.

So this guy is following me around Costco and telling me his life story about how his life was when his family lived in Fukuchiyama. He's telling me this stuff about a nice, clean river with smooth embankments that his kids would play on and he and his wife could watch them from the backdoor of their house because the house was nestled right against the river. For some reason, in my dream I am picturing like some rural Scandinavian bungalow with tall grass rolling down toward the stream and kids frolicking in the midst of these green blades. Part of the suckiness of dreams is when they are like that, you wake up and you live in the ghetto and all of the streams near you are semi-dirty and bug infested. Anywho, back to the dream.

So this guy is telling me his tale of bliss and the entire time I am roaming the aisles of Costco looking for the dumbest thing in the world. I am looking for a pup tent for this guy to go camping in and he wants this one brand that is all silver and tiny and structurally resembles David the Gnome's cap. He will have to go into a fetal position to fit into the tent but that is the one he wants. Now, not only do I think this guy is a moron for wanting a dumb tent but I can't find this tent and I am stuck with him. He is like a dead soul who haunts me because he has unfinished business in my world. So yeah, that was my dream. The odd thing is that I have dreams that I am back in the good old service industry with some frequency. Sometimes I like what I am doing, sometimes I don't, but all I am doing in these stupid dreams is working. You are supposed to kill zombies or screw super models and movie stars in your dreams, not work at Costco. After these dreams you wake up and feel shafted because you didn't have a cool dream and you didn't get paid for the work you were doing in your dream.

So there was my dream and then there was my Thursday night. Thursdays at the school I taught at this week usually aren't too bad and this one wasn't either, it was just that an odd event occurred that I have had to deal with since then. So I am teaching a class of twelve year olds and almost all of them are girls. One girl in the class is named Kana and she is normally a pretty sweet kid to have in class. She has a nice personality, is pretty smart, and is well-behaved. But on Thursday she was acting weird. We were all playing a game that splits that class into two teams and has a person from each team drawing pictures on the board. The other people on the team relay what I want drawn from me in the back of the room to the person sitting at the whiteboard. Its all good fun and all of them like this game. So I am sitting behind everyone and I notice something. Kana is wearing a shirt and a pair of light blue gym shorts made from pretty thin fabric. On these shorts I see a blotch, no big deal, I figure she sat in something or whatever but there is a small yellowish blotch on the butt of her shorts. The game continues and minutes tick by. The time I have left with this class may have been shrinking but the blotch on Kana's butt keeps growing...and growing.

I ask her if she is feeling okay and she says yes, so I don't worry too much but the stain is growing. By this point, the stain is taking up two-thirds of her butt. Pretty soon, Kana turns to me, all sweaty and pasty looking and asks to use the restroom. I pretend like I don't notice anything unusual and I let her go. I also pretended not to see her back herself out of the room so that the other kids couldn't see. She was in the bathroom a long time.

Eventually, one of her friends asked to go to the bathroom and I let her. Pretty soon both of them were back in class and within a matter of minutes class was over and Kana was gone. I teach one more class and once that class was finished, a kid comes up to me and tells me that there is crap on the floor of the bathroom. Beh. So I wait until all of the kids have been picked up and like the explorers of old, cautiously make my way into the bathroom. The thing about this classroom is that the bathroom is in the main hall of this building and so a couple of other businesses also use the facilities. If you need to do personal business in this building this one bathroom is where the party is at so to speak.

So I creep into this bathroom and my dread was confirmed. Kana exploded in the stall. When I say exploded, I mean this literally, there were bits and gobs laying about the entire stall. I shuddered. But, I am a grown up and as such a proceeded to clean the stall as good as possible. I clean up and flush the toilet and in the exact moment I flush, I realize that the toilet is already clogged. The fun part to Japanese style toilets is that they are built into the floor and the body of the toilet only rises about two inches out of the ground at its low point. If your toilet gets clogged and its a Western style, no biggie, you have six or seven inches of clearance before the damn breaks and you have a mess on your hands; not so for the Japanese counterpart. So I flush and the water is pretty much to the point of overflow but not quite and that is where it stops. I let out a sigh of relief and figure I should sneak out of the bathroom and go home quickly before someone else notices the problem. The other thing about Japanese toilets is I do not know how you unclog them, their construction makes plungers out of the question.

Sometime between the time I left on Thursday to the time I returned on Friday, the toilet flooded. Fortunately, the first one to notice was one of my students' moms and there just happened to be another person that worked in the building standing there when she did. They talked about it for a few seconds and I figured that was that. Well, I think it flooded again today and I still have no clue how you unclog the bugger. Not my problem anymore though, I am not back at that school until the end of September.

In other news, I almost got a Black Nintendo DS Lite. It was sitting in a store but I wanted to trade in my old DS to get credit toward the new one so I waited to buy it until yesterday. In that one day, the Black DS Lite had sold. It made me sad.

Now that the weekend is here, things will pick up. Karie and Reid are coming to visit tomorrow and they will stay until Tuesday so I am excited for that. News about the Tokyo Game Show is popping up more often now so I am getting excited for that as well. Its rumored that Nintendo is going to announce the release date and price of the Wii at the show and so I will be one of the first ones to hear about it. I want to be in Tokyo right now!

Well, its time to fix myself some dinner and chill for the night. Have a good weekend!