Thursday, May 31, 2007

In Loving Memory of My Shure E4c Earbuds

On Tuesday, I lost a close friend, two if you count the right and left earbuds separately. The left earbud of my Shure E4c noise canceling earbuds died while I was riding on a train. One minute, I was listening to Weezer, the next I was only listening to Weezer in my right ear. I took the left out to see if something was clogging it, nothing, I tried the earbuds in my PSP, still only right audio. My left earbud is dead. I have heard good things about Shure's customer support so I am hoping they can resolve the matter in a timely and cost-effective manner and I don't have to buy new earbuds.

Today, I tried riding the train using my over earphones and I could barely hear my iPod over the noise of the train. Sadly, I can almost tolerate listening to only right audio over listening to stereo sound out of crappy regular ear phones; the E4cs are that damned good. So now I am waiting to hear back from tech support as to how we can fix the problem. I don't want to buy new earbuds but I will if I absolutely need to, the Shures have spoiled me for a year and a half and I am simply not used to hearing all of the background noise that comes with riding on a train. I have to give it to those earbuds, when they say noise canceling, they really mean it. I almost never wear them at night now because when I do, I am totally deaf and in the dark it's kind of dangerous. That is why I bought a $15 pair of earphones that hook on to each of my ears for jogging. They still let me hear music but I hear a bit of the outside world as well. That and wearing noise canceling buds while jogging makes it so you almost can't hear the music because of the vibration coming from your feet hitting the ground and then coming up into your skull; it makes a thudding sound that doesn't go well with music.

Anywho, here's to hoping they can fix them or replace them. The only crappy part now is the fact that I will have to cross the Pacific Ocean with lame earphones instead of my Shures.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Comings and Goings

Today I made the trip to a town named, Maizuru, which is home to the closest immigration office in my prefecture. After having a very tasty, lunch of Indian food, and looking in a couple of shops on the way to the offices, I reached the four storey, white brick building.

I have been here before so the trip itself wasn't all that interesting. You walk to the office building, you go to the second floor, you go into the immigration office, and you attempt to convince the bored looking guys behind the counter that you need something only they can give you. It's not that the immigration guy aren't helpful, they just aren't that into their jobs. They are kind of like the turtle from Neverending Story, they will help you out, they just need a little prodding to get into gear. I don't think they get visitors horribly often.

The only weird thing about dealing with immigration offices here is that they cannot accept money directly. This is a rule that is supposed to cut down on bribes and corruption but for the person in need of something, it just adds one more step to the process. Since they can't take money, you have to find a place that is inside every immigration building I have been to, in one town you need to go into a convenience store in the building, in Maizuru, you have to go to a barber shop four doors down from the immigration office. Once you hunt down the third party, you ask them for a stamp worth the cash value that you need to give the immigration guys. Once you have obtained the stamp, you go back to the immigration guys and put the stamp on the bill. It's not a hard process, it's just one that adds an extra step to the whole affair, like a little quest you have to go on to obtain whatever it is you need to get from the immigration guys.

Today, I needed a slip of paper and a stamp on my passport that says I can leave Japan and the return to Japan once again after my trip is over. For non-Japanese citizens, if you need to go out of the country, you need this piece of paper in order to get back in without invalidating your visa. If you don't have this paper when you leave Japan, when you try to get back into the country, they take your work visa away from you and send you back to wherever you just came from to start the whole visa application process again. It is a pain and I don't feel like losing my job or my home just yet so I will fork out the $28 and get the proper authorization to leave Japan for my brother's wedding and return again once it's over.

And that was my day. It was easy, I ate good Indian food, and I got paid for all of it because I was technically supposed to be in the office today. Thanks to living in the boonies, no one really knows what I do or where I go up here so it is all good. Now I have less than two weeks until I am amongst a white population again and can understand everything that is said to me. I am getting excited.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Warning: I Am Moderately Buzzed

I finished teaching tonight, got back into Fukuchiyama, and just wanted to relax. I went back to my place and played some video games but that didn't do the trick so I went to my nearest ramen shop and ate dinner and had a beer. One mug of beer turned into three and then I had another can when I came back home after an hour and a half of watching them cook in the ramen shop. I learned something new tonight, I feel more relaxed just by watching people cook. I knew that cooking relaxed me but who knew that cooking was also a relaxing spectator sport? The manager of the store has also always been very nice to me and I wish I could speak more to him. He always acts like he wants to talk to me but I think he is afraid to because he doesn't know how much Japanese I understand.

I also have a new target, her name is Aki and she works at the train station. Whenever we are both there, we always talk to each other and she goes out of her way to say hello to me whenever she sees me. I decided the other day that I was going to see if she wanted to go out for lunch or dinner sometime but since I have decided that, she hasn't been around the train station very often. It's kind of annoying. I saw her today but before I could really talk to her, another customer approached her and she had to help her. That is okay because I started the conversation off with, "I am so sweaty", it could have only gone downhill from there. Did I mention that Aki looks very cute in her little train uniform? All of the JR Train employees have to wear these uniforms and I have to say, I dig the women in uniform, cute little skirts and these cute little hats....anywho I like the uniforms and Aki looks nice in hers. Another upside to Aki is that she speaks very good English. She started learning five years ago because she liked English scones and decided she needed to know how to bake them, thus began her journey into the world of speaking English. As a sidenote: English scones and American "Merrit's or fair scones" are totally different. Our scones are fluffy and tasty yummy with honey and sugar, British scones are like hard lumps of dough that never rose but still got baked anyway.

The difference between American women and Japanese women is that when American women are nice to you, you know that you at least might have a shot but when Japanese women are nice to you, you are never sure whether it's because they like you or they are just being Japanese. I will be the first to tell you I am not good at reading women but man, Japanese women make it really really hard to figure out what they are thinking. If American women don't like you, they tell you to go to hell. If Japanese women don't like you, they talk to you with a smile and a laugh and then when you leave they exhale a great sigh of relief.

I am not sure why but I really enjoy listening to music while I drink and am a tad drunk. I must have some audio inhabition when I am sober and a little bit of suckling from Satan's teet makes it go away. I have very eclectic musical tastes, I have listened to some clubby electronic stuff, some punk, and now Smashing Pumpkins tonight. It is also scary how many bands and songs I remember, the more I think about it, the more I think I am like the main character from the book and movie, "High Fidelity". I think I would enjoy owning a music shop. But then again, I think I would also enjoy running a restaraunt, being an archivist and appraiser, and a teacher. Whatever. I have lots of interests.

On another note, I really want a new tattoo. I am pretty certain I know what I want but I am not so certain I want to pay $500.00 to get it done. Why do tats here have to cost so much more than in the U.S? Part of me wants to get the tat done on my visit back to the States but how authentic is a Japanese style tat that is done in the United States, especially when I know that the guy that will do it is an Idahoan cracker drunk that has been arrested twice for DUIs? But he IS a really good ink guy and I like the two others that I have from him...hmm.

And now for something totally different:

I think this may be my most favorite pic I have ever taken. I took it while I was in Hiroshima with Jim. This little kid was in the parade with her family but every couple of minutes, she would take off running out in front of everyone until her mom would call her back. After which, she would walk with her family for a minute or so and then run off again. She was very happy and was having so much fun, I took this pic from about a block away when she was doing another one of her jaunts in front of the parade.

Okay, I think I am done spilling my brainflow for the moment. Maybe I will go to sleep now. Night Night!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Flickr, How I Love Thee

I swear, the few bucks I paid to join Flickr has to be some of the best money I have spent. I belong to a couple of different groups and am able to get tips from people and look at some very nice photographs. My new obsession has been to enter my photos into little contests within one of my groups and I just realized how into them I get and how I actually put thought and effort into selecting what photos get entered into the contests. Its not like I win anything even if my photos get chosen, its just nice to know that some people like my pictures. That and the contests are one more way for me to satisfy my competitive yearning.

In other news, if I were to look down at my arm right now, I would be able to tell you what kind of dental correction a kid in my class needs. I can see a perfect mold of the first six teeth on the top of his mouth and the first six on the bottom. What a sweet child for giving me such pleasant reminders of his love; he will need braces for sure on his lower teeth and I hope they rust in his mouth and the corrosion infects his gums. At least I know the pressure points in his shoulder blades are functioning correctly; he bit into my arm and I pressed into his shoulder. Neither of us were horribly happy with each other after that. I wouldn't have had to use pressure points had he not tried to bite me three times before that one or had he listened to me when I told him not to bite after each of those attempts. Of all of the crap kids do, biting and spitting are the two I don't cope well with. Sensei Tyson has a long fuse until you do one of those two things and then he morphs into Old Testament Sensei Tyson.

On a positive note, my youngest kids are doing really well and none of them weep in the presence my greatness anymore. They know almost all of the colors and most of the shapes up to some of the more complex ones like "sphere", "cube" and "pyramid". What good and smart little munchkins they are turning into, I just wish all of my kids were like them.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Odd Requests

This week was very good from a teaching standpoint. The weather was nice, the kids were frighteningly good, and my company stayed out of my way. All of this goodness led me to feel somewhat generous.

The kids I taught this week will not see me until my triumphant return from America, therefore, I felt it necessary to take "presento" requests from the kids. Its not everyday they get a chance to interact with someone going to America so I figured I would get all of them something that is difficult or impossible to obtain in Japan. For the younger kids, I will be bringing back pennies, and small candy like Tootsie Rolls for they are cheap and keep well on long journeys. The only difficulty will be keeping myself from eating them.

The older kids know more English so I allowed them to make requests for small things that were not horribly expensive or big. Some of these requests so far have been interesting and mildly entertaining. Here is a list of what has been asked of me so far:

Pencils: They want an American pencil...umm...okay, can do. Way to reach for the
stars, though they get bonus points for wanting something they can use.

A Baseball Glove: Uhh....not happening. I suggested baseball cards instead and this
made two boys almost giddy with excitement. It will be fun to see
how they react to them when I come back.

A Baseball Bat: Not happening first of all, secondly, it was a girl that asked for it
which was kind of strange. Her next try was a signed baseball. I told
her that my city didn't have a professional team and she was shocked.
Sidenote: Most medium sized cities here have Pro Baseball teams. Her
next request was for just a baseball. I told her maybe but that isn't
really a neat souvenir so I don't think she is getting it unless I
get her a Boise Hawks ball or something.

Video Games: Probably not happening because of price but I may surprise them if I can
get a cheap GBA or DS game used. Plus to this request is that it would
be a motivator for learning more English.

Clothing: Another one I am not sure of but haven't totally ruled out. We will see, I
actually have some spare Boise High shirts that I was given to trade in
here that I may give to them instead. We'll see, the problem with clothes
is that most clothing that is truly American is expensive name brand crap.

Keychains: Can do!!

This list only came from two classes. I need to be careful or else I will be spending more than I want on these kids. There are only a handful of classes that are getting the privledge to make requests and I have already told them some stuff was too expensive so I think I am doing a good job not inflating their hopes too much and keeping the cost to me down. July will be a fun month just to be able to see how they like everything. I am especially looking forward to the baseball card guys because they asked for something unique, easy to find, and cheap. If I have money to spare I may pick each of the two boys up an Ichiro card or a Matsuzaka card so they can have an American card of a player they are familiar with.

Now that I think of it, I wonder of this whole week of being ungodly good to Tyson Sensei was just a simple ploy to get treats and goodies from me. Hmmm.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The End Is Nigh

For whatever reason, be it illness, drugs, or some kind of allergy, all of my kids were really really good tonight. Even the kids that I dread teaching were good; and not merely good, they were excellent this evening. I am taking this as a sign of the apocalypse.

On another note, some guy in Texas managed to steal $250,000.00 worth of Skittles. Yes, you read correctly, Skittles. That man is the Mogwai's Personal Hero of the Day winner. I am seriously contemplating sending this guy a bag of his most beloved candy while he is in prison. You have to be devoted to a sugary treat to rip off seven pallets of it. I like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups but I don't know if I like them that much; besides if I eat more than four of those precious precious cups at a time, I get a stomach ache.

Keeping things on a lighter note, if you want to see a funny movie that I believe to be a pretty accurate prediction of where human civilization is heading, watch "Idiocracy". The film is from the great man who brought us such quality entertainment as "Office Space", "Beavis and Butthead", and "King of The Hill". While Jim was here he turned me on to it and since I have watched it, I find myself repeating several phrases from that movie a couple times a day.

Oh yeah, Jim left the land of the rising sun on Sunday and is now back in the States. I enjoyed having him here and showing him the odd little niche that I have carved out for myself here. The more people I introduce to Japan, the more I realize I would never want to take a vacation here unless I had someone that knew where they were going and how things work. Tokyo is a fairly accessible place but once you leave there, I think it would be hard to get a fufilling Japanese experience on your own. I am glad I was able to provide that for Jim.

Anywho, I have some more pictures I need to get on to Flickr and I need to find something to eat. In less than a month, I will be back in the US for a bit, odd.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Mogwai and Jim's Excellent Adventure: Day Two

Upon waking up from a surprisingly good night's sleep in my little pod, Jim and I set out to Kyoto. I was especially chipper for some reason, I think I liked sleeping in the enclosed space or something, either way, I was kind of hyper despite the earlyish hour.

We made it from Osaka to Kyoto in good time and from the station we set off to Kiyomizu Dera. Kiyomizu Dera is a very cool temple that was built in 798. It has also been nominated to be one of the new seven wonders of the world. This is where our day started to get interesting.

There was a woman that was not Japanese and she was having a hard time figuring out what the bus person was telling her so being the helpful guy I am, I chipped in and sorted out the situation. We got on the same bus as her and talked a little on the trip from Kyoto station to the area around Kiyomizu Dera. During our brief exchange, we learned that she was from Spain and was just wandering through Kyoto without a guide and didn't really know exactly where she was headed. I told her it would be fine with us if she tagged along with Jim and I, since I knew where I was going and could speak enough Japanese to get along pretty well. She was happy for the invite and agreed to walk around with us.

After leaving Kiyomizu Dera, we were wandering the streets and looking in some shops when she ran into a guy and his friend that she had meant the previous night in the hostel she was staying at. We talked with them for a couple of minutes and the next thing I know, two more people had joined the Tyson Tour Train.

I led my little group of wandering whiteys to shrine after shrine and I think everyone had a good time. At the shrine for people who have died from Fugu poisoning (yup, there is a shrine for them) we encountered another Australian guy who stood on the sidelines of my group for a couple of minutes as I explained some stuff and then he asked if he could join up with us. The final member of the tour train had been added, bringing the grand total of my flock to five people plus me.

That is pretty much how the day went, I talked and showed people things and they listened. Everyonce and a while, someone from the group would ask a question and I would answer to the best of my abilities. It was really cool to hook up with other travellers because they were for the most part, really cool people and they enhanced Jim and I's trip. Jim and I spent the better part of the day with all of them before breaking off and heading back home, it had been a very good day with a very positive vibe. I am not usually one to comment on the vibes of certain things but I have to say, that day was a very "up" day.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Mogwai and Jim's Excellent Adventure

Since Jim has arrived we have been everywhere and seen pretty much everything the main island of Japan has to offer. Jim has had fun and I have had fun showing him everything there is to see and do. Jim thinks I am a good tour guide and has invented an index to rate my effectiveness as a guide. This index is called, TIT or "Trust in Tyson". Right now my TIT is very big and thus, we are both quite happy.

In his week here, he has seen Tokyo, Mt.Fuji (we actually saw it from the train, I might have been happier about this and went kind of nuts upon seeing it), Hiroshima and the Flower Festival held there, Himeji and the castle, Osaka and Den Den Town, and lots of Kyoto. He has been more places than most Japanese people and has enjoyed most of it.

Now it's time for a fun story.

Yesterday, started like any other day. We got up, got on a train, and went to Himeji. Though it was raining pretty good, we saw Himeji castle and the surrounding areas. We were also going to go to Kobe but to be honest, there isn't a ton of stuff to see or do there other than shop and Jim isn't too into that. We then went to Osaka.

We went to Osaka with one big goal and that was to see Den Den Town, the electronics section of Osaka. One very important thing happened at Den Den Town, I managed to show Jim that he did not want to be a McRefugee. Japan has an odd problem at the moment. Almost all of the McDonalds here are now open twenty-four hours a day and as long as you buy something, you are free to stay as long as you like. This has given rise to a growing group of people that will buy one coffee (free refills) or one hamburger and then proceed to sleep in the dining area over night. For some people, hotels are too expensive, as are internet cafes, but almost everyone can afford 100 yen for a coffee. These people have been labeled, McRefugees. I had told Jim about this odd trend and he was intrigued; neither of us could deny that it wasn't a bad idea for someone that might otherwise be homeless to do and Jim had even thought that that would make for a fine documentary topic. Yesterday, while in McDonalds, we sat by a man that was definitely a permanent resident in Ronald's house and Jim realized that maybe relying on the Golden Arches for residential status was a bad idea. Glad I was able to overt disaster there.

As the day went on, Jim and I formulated a plan. We had tossed about the idea of finding and staying in a capsule hotel that night and then getting an early start in Kyoto or Nara the following day. Since it was raining and was supposed to do the same the next day, we decided not to go to Nara, but instead chose Kyoto. Therefore, it was time to find a capsule hotel and Jim again placed his trust in me to hunt one down.

Explaining a capsule hotel is somewhat difficult. They are very cheap, one night only costs about $25.00 and there is really only one ground rule for staying in a capsule hotel, women are not allowed. This lack of feminine order leads to several slightly unsettling occurrences. Picture your uncle, your whacky-kind-of-black-sheep-of-the-family uncle, the one that doesn't shave, smokes two packs a day, and has never been known to turn down a drink, even after the liver and kidney transplants. Now, make that uncle Asian looking and put him in slightly oversized pinstriped pajamas with soothing color tones. Next, multiply your uncle by two hundred and place them in an odd hotel. In this hotel, you will have a common room with a TV and on the television will be the first Spiderman movie playing in Japanese. About twenty of your uncles will be enjoying the web-slinging wonder while sipping on a beer and conversing with each other. Some of their pajama tops will be unbuttoned with a middle-aged gut hanging out and others will be lounging with one hand partially down the front of their pants while the other holds a smoldering cigarette. There is a public bathroom and shower area and a communal sink area for doing your hair and brushing your teeth. Each hotel guest also has a locker for all of their belongings and clothes and the locker room is monitored by the watchful eye of a security camera. When it is time to go to sleep, you step through a pair of doors that would look more fitting in a meat packing plant and into sleepy land. Here, it is pretty quiet and dark. You have now entered a honeycomb of sleeping chambers stacked two high and one after another. Some of them are dark and empty, others are emitting a warm glow of light from behind a woven screen pulled down over the sleeping chamber's entrance. Occasionally, you will hear one of your uncles’ farts or burps but other than the random bodily outburst, you are enveloped in an eerie calm.

Jim and I's capsules were next to each other in the back aisle on the top tier of chambers. Jim being the spry half-monkey person he is, had no problem swinging himself into his chamber. I on the other hand, took a slightly more careful and planned approach to ninja'ing my way into my pod; big feet and tiny steps make for treacherous going in the dim light of slumbering slobs.

On a Freudian level, I can see why men like capsule hotels. Climbing into the sleeping chamber is probably similar to lounging in a rectangular-ish plastic womb. Each chamber is floored by a mattress, has one pillow, and one blanket. There are also several nooks for wallets and whatnot, and each chamber has a clock radio built into the wall and a nine inch television built into the ceiling, just like mother's womb. When we were babies, we needed the nourishment of proteins and vitamins, now that we are men, we need porn. In anticipation of this craving, each television has free porn beamed directly to it. Free. Porn. Knowing that most men have the attention span of small furry animals, each scene of carnal frolic is limited to ten minutes before changing starlets and studs preparing to embark on a new, lustful adventure. Though it may seem like a know all of this information about the porn channel first-hand, all I have told you was gleamed from the whispered conversations between several of the slightly creepy uncles......really. Free. Porn.

Though we were not able to speak for fear of waking up a grumpy uncle, Jim and I were able to communicate with each other using our Nintendo DS Lites. It was kind of like being in a plastic prison and hashing out a new, high tech form of communication between the inmates. It worked very well and we were able to figure out what time to wake up the following morning. After making our escape plans we left our prison Gameboy chat room and were each left to our own devices to while away the time.

After not watching porn, I decided it was time to go to sleep so that I could be fresh the following day. What new adventures awaited Jim and I? Where would we go and who else would I end up playing tour guide for? Only the future knew the answers to these questions. What I did know was that I felt rather at home in my little plastic pod; it was warm and comfy and within minutes my snoring joined the symphony of bodily acoustics singing out from my uncles surrounding me.

So you can get an idea of the size of these amazing sleeping pods, I have included a couple of pictures:

The pod without me.

And the pod with me. These things are probably not for the claustrophobic.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


Jim and I are everywhere if the term "everywhere" is only limited to Japan. In the past three days we have seen a good bit of Tokyo and Hiroshima, today we start on Kyoto.

Its been busy and fast-paced but its been fun. I need to take off now to catch the trains but I will post more later; I just wanted to give an update of how things were going.

See ya!