Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Here Is The Five Millionth iPhone Article You Will Read This Week

In America, home to the slovenly, technology impaired, white people, the iPhone comes out this week. The initial reviews seem to feel that the new gadget from Apple does a good job living up to its hype with only a couple of minor annoyances. I want an iPhone.

Yet here I am, in Japan, land of robot dogs and Nissan Skylines, without an iPhone. Japan will not get the iPhone until next year. I feel bad about this but I also see why Apple chose to wait to unleash the iPhone to the Japanese consumer. The United States runs on an antiquated cellular technology called GSM. There are upsides and downsides to GSM; the big upside being that a GSM cellular signal can cover more space than a Japanese 3G signal. This is a handy thing when you live in a country about fifty times bigger than Japan. The upside to the Japanese cellular network is that is it EXTREMELY fast. Loading a website on a 3G enabled phone compared to doing the same thing on a GSM phone would be like comparing the speed of a rocket to that of a three-legged, half retarded turtle, named, Sparkplug. Japan's cellular network is fast enough to stream full speed television signals to a cell phone traveling on a train without missing a beat. The reason I am saying all of this is because if Apple were to have launched the iPhone here, the performance of the phone would have been staggering compared to its American counterpart. The media would have reported the difference and not as many iPhones would have been sold in the US.

Supposedly, 3G phones take a bit more coding and tweaking than most American phones and that was Apple's excuse for not having the Japanese release ready to go. I think that is bull. I think the real reason is a Japanese release would have hurt the American one and the Japanese cell phone market is so flooded, Apple could not have sold nearly the quantity that will walk out of American retailers' doors later this week.

As much as I would like an iPhone, I am being forced to wait about eight months and this is a good thing for a handful of reasons:

First, AT&T's cellular service sucks. I would rather not be saddled to a sub-par cellular service provider when there are many other service providers out there that can do a much better job, hopefully by the time I am able to get one, either other service providers will be able to utilize the iPhone or AT&T will have gotten its act together; I am betting on the prior.

Second, the price of that phone is stupidly high. I understand the value of having a web browser, cell phone, and video iPod all in one and that is one reason I will not upgrade my iPod to a video iPod. The next time I upgrade it will be to an iPhone that will have hopefully either gone up in features or down in price. Paying $600 for a first generation gadget that is bound to improve with time just so I can have a status symbol is stupid.

And lastly, as I said above, this phone is the first in most likely several generations of iPhone. If Apple has shown us anything, it is that they are more than capable of releasing increasingly impressive revisions to their products. The iPhone will be no different. I am hoping that the next generation has a memory card slot, open support of third party software, and Flash and Java enabled. All of these things are doable and actually, most phones on the market today are equipped with two out of the three items I have listed, Flash and Java are still not widely used on cell phones but a few are popping up that utilize them.

So here I am, living on my little island, rather happy with the fact I can't buy an iPhone. In the end, I think my forced wait will be worth it and when I do get an iPhone, I will be happier with it than most of the people that will be gobbling them up in a couple of days.

My Recipe For Love Is...

Two packs of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and scone mix from Merrit's Cafe.

As pretty much everyone knows, I use a train to get to and from work almost everyday and in order to get on the trains I need to go to my town's train station. At my station, there is a girl named Aki who works in the ticket office and her and I talk quite a bit. She is cute, likes to cook, very perky, and pretty good at English; all of these things make her A-okay in my book. Anywho, I met Aki five or six months ago when I lost my cell phone on one of the trains and she helped me find it. Someone had turned it into the office and it was waiting there for me. As it turns out, I was quite lucky to meet Aki that night because she is the only person that works in my train station that knows any English whatsoever and she is actually quite good at speaking English. Ever since then, when I go to catch a train we usually greet each other and talk for a few minutes. Before I went back to the United States, I mentioned to her that I would be leaving for a while and she asked me to bring her back a present. She said she liked peanut butter and I knew that she liked scones so I knew almost immediately what I would be getting for her gift.

Everyone knows I am a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup fiend. When I was little, it was not a holiday until I had puked from eating too many of them. I still love those chocolaty cups of nutty joy but they are not sold in Japan so I am forced to beg for them to be sent to me during holidays and with packages. I figured Aki would like them too so I got her two packs.

In one of our talks, Aki told me that the only reason she ever wanted to learn English was to learn how to make British scones without needing a Japanese translation. She has been studying for five years and as I said, is quite good. We have talked about how American scones are totally different than British ones and she said that she wanted to try them someday so I knew that I would need to make a stop by Merrit's to get some scone mix for her. Merrit's is this little dive of a cafe in Boise that is known for its awesome tasting scones. Actually, all of the food there is quite tasty.

So I got Aki the Reese's and the scone mix and put them in a plastic bag to give to her. This is where I got devious. I decided to include a note in the bag basically telling her that if she needed help with the instructions for the scones to give me a call or text me and then wrote down my information. I also popped a sentence on there that said if she ever felt like going out to lunch or dinner that she could call me for that too.


She sent me a message today saying that she was going to be in Osaka for a month (she is training to be a train when she came back she would like to go out sometime. I also ran into her last night on my way home and she said I should come down to Osaka and hang out with her. That is when I told her that I didn't have her info and she said she would message me today and she did. So now I have at least one outing with her lined up if not two. I may go into Osaka in a weekend or two and see if she is free.

I always knew there was a reason I like Reese's.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Differences and Similarities

Warning: I am going to make some broad generalizations in this post, I know these statements do not apply to absolutely everyone but I do feel they are pretty accurate.

Having had a couple of days to process my trip to the United States, I have started to compile a list of ways in which the Japanese and Americans are different. Here are a few that I have come up with so far:

1) Americans are fat. Americans know this, the world knows this, even the cute little Martians know this because they can probably see some of the more robust Americans from their little red planet. The average weight for an American male my age is around 170lbs. The average weight for a Japanese male my age is around 140lbs. I think that American portion sizes have a lot to do with this discrepancy; we like big meals with lots of meat. The Japanese historically, are healthier eaters but unfortunately, I think that the Japanese are starting to like the "bigger is better" mode of thought.

2) Japanese people are roughly 21.8 times friendlier than Americans. On the Mogwai Friendliness Index (MFI) that is how much higher the Japanese scored over American test takers. Yes, the MFI is complete BS but just take my word for it, the Japanese are friendlier. The service you will get at a Japanese business is much better than what you will get from a comparable American establishment. If you look like you may need help, people tend to go out of their way to see to it you are taken care of. While Americans will do this too, it is a rarer occasion in my experience and the extent of aid offered is significantly smaller.

3) Americans have a higher alcohol tolerance. This is probably in part, due to our weight and diet but genetically, most Asians have a lower tolerance than their Western counterparts. They also tend to be more prone to alcoholism than Westerners. If someone wants to fact check this, go nuts but I am pretty sure I have read something along these lines from a couple of different sources.

4) The Japanese fake liking and doing their jobs better than Americans. This kind of ties into the whole better service thing I mentioned earlier. Take for example when I worked at Costco; I was a jerk. I didn't like my job or the people and I wasn't afraid to let it show. Japanese people hide their disdain for the daily grind much better than Americans do. They are also geniuses when it comes to looking productive while spacing off. In Japanese work culture, the appearance of productivity is oftentimes much more important than what is actually getting done.

5) This has also been touched on but the Japanese suicide rate is nutty.

6) Americans are MUCH more aggressive than the Japanese. Americans like confrontation, we are taught to stand up for ourselves and be individuals. The Japanese learn values that are almost the antithesis of how Americans are brought up. They are taught to behave and function well within the group, we are taught to do our own thing and become our own person. Sure, teamwork is important in American culture but not to the extent that it is here. Japanese kids do not like to be separated from their peers, this is why it is such an effective punishment to do so. Not kidding, I have never seen kids go into tears so fast when they are made to sit apart from their class.

7) Americans are louder. When speaking, the Japanese tend to mumble a little. Actually, "mumble" is not the correct word because that implies a negative connotation. It is probably better to say that the Japanese just speak softer than we do. Americans tend to be louder laughers and show their pleasure much more openly. When Japanese people laugh, especially women, they have a habit of covering their mouths. When Americans sneeze and this holds especially true for my dad and I, we sneeze loudly. Most Japanese can do that quiet "inside" sneeze that has quite frankly, always weirded me out. Americans have no problem yelling out to each other if they see a friend on the street, the most you will get from a Japanese guy is a medium volumed "Hoi!". The difference in volume isn't as drastic as I first thought it was but Americans are definitely a bit louder.

One similarity that both cultures do share is that they are both very consumer and materialist cultures. Japanese and Americans love to shop and I would argue that some of the best shopping in the world can be had in both countries. If you are a woman and you live in Japan, you can shop to your heart's content. I am not saying that to be sexist, there are just more shops and shopping areas that cater almost solely to women here than in the US, take shopping districts such as Harajuku and Ginza in Tokyo for example. They are crazy places to spend money...if you are female.

Both cultures are also fans of gadgets and gimmicks. One difference in this category is that Americans love their Bluetooth headsets for their cell phones, while Japanese people do not use them as often. This really stood out to me when I came back to the US, everyone has some goofy protrusion sticking to their ear. Either way, both countries like their gizmos; Japanese people have the opportunity to personalize them more than Americans do though. Cell phones and laptops come in a wider array of colors here. In America, it is usually black, silver, or white. Here, you can pretty much pick a color from the rainbow and find the gadget you want in that color. Gadget personalization is one way that the Japanese love to express themselves and there is a huge market for it here. Do Americans like to put fake jewels and stickers all over their cell phones? I think not.

To summarize, I do not think that they differences ans similarities that I have observed are bad things for the most part. Each country has their own culture and quirks and other people need to be aware of this. To be different is not a bad thing, it just makes for some unique experiences and fun blog posts. (^_^)

As a sidenote, that smiley face I just used is a Japanese smiley. Americans and Japanese generally, use different emoticons when typing or texting. Japanese emots focus on the eyes more, while Americans focus on the mouth. Example: (^_^) vs :) I find the Japanese emoticons to be much more effective at expressing the emotions that they represent but everyone has their own opinion. I must say, I did not discover this observation on my own. Click here to learn more.



Pic of The Day

This is the best laugh I have had all day.

Scooby Doo and The Case Of The Missing Luggage

After a very nice flight home yesterday, my perfect record for never losing baggage was broken. As of this very moment, the two bags I checked at the airport in Boise, ID could be in either San Francisco, Vancouver, or Japan. Most likely the bags are in Vancouver because when I got there yesterday, I double checked that the bags had been scanned in there and was told that they were. Why they were not put on my plane to Osaka is another story. I am not horribly worried either way, I would just like to have 3/4 of my wardrobe back and the newest Stuff Pack for the Sims 2.

Yesterday's flight was very nice. The lady in San Francisco must have felt sorry for me and when she hooked me up with the tickets from Vancouver to Osaka, I was placed in the row directly behind the First Class partition which meant I got a ton of extra leg room and I also didn't have anyone sitting in the seat next to me so I had a good chunk of space for the eleven hour flight. I was also right in front of one of the movie screens so I was able to enjoy myself quite nicely while crossing the Pacific.

Today I have been all jet-laggy and have slept most of the day. I think as soon as I am done posting this I am going to run to the store for some peanut clusters and hamburger for spaghetti; both of these are rewards for being a good little boy on the plane flight.

In other news, my hands and feet are driving me nuts. When I get really stressed, like I was last week, my hands and feet to a lesser extent, get these tiny little blisters just underneath the skin. My right hand usually gets them the worst and for some reason my middle fingers get more of them than my palms of other digits. Either way, these blisters are annoying. I have hundreds on my right hand and probably about sixty on my left. After a few days, the blisters start to pop under my skin and it makes my hands feel like I am wearing gloves all of the time and I can't feel anything with my fingers. I can feel the pressure when I touch something or poke them but as far as being able to tell the difference between a plastic bag and a piece of bread, I am out of luck. It also makes typing a little difficult. When I go to the store I may see about finding some Calamine lotion to help with the itching.

Anywho, I looks as if there is a break in all of the raining that has been going on so I am going to take advantage and run to the store.

Update: Case solved! The bags arrived from Vancouver this evening and the airport is shipping them to my house so I don't have to go to Osaka to pick them up. After being apologized to at least ten times, I assured the lady at the airport that I was happy with how everything turned out and not mad at them. It took some convincing but I think she hung up feeling like it was all going to be okay. The funny part came several minutes after that phone call when the woman from the travel agency called me freaking out. Evidently, it came across her computer that my original tickets had been canceled and I had to come back to Japan through Vancouver. She was beside herself thinking that she had made a mistake and I had to tell her at least three times that she had done nothing wrong and that I was actually very happy with the job she did for me. She calmed down after I explained everything and I honestly think she was more fretful about my delay and lost luggage than I was.

I know I am a laid back guy but I seriously felt like I had to be the rock and comfort the two women I spoke to today. I think they are used to Westerners wigging out on them when stuff goes wrong and when I didn't, they became confused. I'm glad I was there for them in their time of need. Anywho, case solved and the bags will be here in a day or two. Time for a Scooby Snack. d(^_^)b

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Fun WIth Airports Part Deux

Right now I am in Canada, hence my French. I started today's journey with a 3:50am wake up call. After a quick shower, I gathered my things and headed to the airport shuttle that arrived at 4:20am. After a minor delay due to some computer glitch on the plane, we took off and had a smooth flight to Vancouver, where I am chilling now.

My flight doesn't leave until 1pm so I am basically killing time in the airport terminal, stealing wireless. Once I board this next flight, I am going into hardcore relaxation mode and hopefully there will be some good movies to watch. I am happy because there was some concern among the United Airlines staff that my baggage may have been held up but upon reaching Canada, I found that my baggage made the flight with me and I will have everything when I land in Osaka. Had it not made my flight, I would have had to get it sent to my house because it would not have been able to come to Japan until tomorrow.

In other news, yesterday turned out very well. Several minutes after making my last post, Ben knocked on my hotel room door and we took off for an abbreviated tour of San Francisco. We stopped at In-An-Out Burger and went all animal style on a couple of tasty cheeseburgers. Afterward, we headed down to the Pier area and walked around there for several hours. For dinner we ate some pizza (my first in 1.5 years) and then Ben brought me back to the hotel. It was cool to see him and it worked out really well because he was looking for an excuse to escape work and I was just the random event he needed. Next time I will see Ben will be in September when he comes to my neck of the woods to visit. That will be fun!

Anywho, I need to get something to eat before my flight so I should take off. Finally, it looks like I will be able to make it home today!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Fun WIth Airports

Today started out so well. I woke up, got packed, jumped in the car, and headed to the Boise Airport to begin my voyage home. Little did I know that by the middle of the day I would find myself typing this entry in a Red Roof Inn in San Francisco.

Things started to go awry almost as soon as I got out of security at the Boise Airport. I got McDonalds and wandered to my gate, happy to be going home. As I was munching a McMuffin, a voice came on the loudspeaker and announced that my flight was going to be delayed due to fogginess in San Fran. Okay, no problem, I have a bit less than two hours so I will still be okay. Wrong. My plane ended up taking off over an hour late from Boise.

By the time I landed in San Fran, I only had fifteen minutes to make it to the international flight terminal to board my plane. They rushed me through the building and radioed ahead to my gate to let them know I was running to get the flight. All of the rushing was to no avail and when I got to the gate the guy at the counter said the plane's door had just been closed and could not be reopened for me. I told him that there was five minutes until take-off and they still had the dock up to the plane and that I could quickly get to my seat. "Nope, the door is closed." I got this from him a couple more times as I tried to explain the situation and eventually, I walked away from the counter before I said things to him that I would probably regret later.

After my episode with Gate Guy, I went back through security and made my way to the counter for people with issues with their flights. There, a super nice lady named Inja tried very hard to find an alternate route for me. She found one that would be a pain to deal with but doable if I could be put on standby for a plane that was leaving in less than twenty minutes and I was again rushed through the security line to a special line for people in a big hurry.

This line was pointless. Since I was escorted to the line, the TSA people needed to make sure that this was no conspiracy to blow up a plane and insisted on scanning my bags and then swabbing every electrical device with chemicals to make sure they would not go boom. After waiting in this line for ten minutes, I asked the security guy next to me if there was anything that could be done to speed this up. I explained to him that I knew it was not his fault and I knew he couldn't control the situation but if there was anything he could do, that would be great because if they did not hurry, I was going to miss the flight that I didn't even have a 100% chance of getting on to begin with. He was cool and told me he was calling his manager. I was then hurried through the line and two people went over my stuff for me. Both of them were speedy and very friendly which shocked me because most TSA employees make me want to punch babies.

After security, I ran for the gate for my flight I could hopefully make. This also ended up being pointless because they had no room on the flight and finally told me that I wasn't going to be able to get on after I asked them to stop wasting my time and theirs' and just tell me if I had any shot at getting on the plane.

After failed attempt #2 I headed back to see Inja and see if she could help me again. They started to close her line but she told them she had dealt with me earlier and to let me stay. I had to wait for a bit while she helped another customer but finally, she was able to help me. The best that could be done was getting me on a 6am flight tomorrow to Vancouver and then to Osaka from there. She also provided me with a discounted hotel room for the night. Since my delay was weather related, they couldn't give me an entirely free room but I consider myself lucky because she was so helpful. She even made it to where I didn't have to uncheck my baggage and can just come to the airport and quickly board my plane. Overall, it was kind of a sucky situation but there was no one to really blame so I kept my cool and was friendly and patient to everyone I talked to and I think my good attitude helped me in my interactions with all of the airport employees. If working at Costco taught me anything it is that nine times out of ten, when dealing with an employee, your problems were not caused by them therefore, there is no reason to get mad or frustrated at them. I think having that in mind may have saved me a lot of trouble today.

Today is going to end on a good note though. I just got off the phone with Ben who lives pretty close to my hotel and we are going to be able to hang out for a while. Anywho, he is on the way so I am going to end this post and hope for the best tomorrow.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Life On Mars

Okay, first off I am sorry I haven't written before now but I have been crazily busy.

Since I have come back to America, there are several things that have really stood out for me. First, Americans are freaking fat people. The portion sizing and nutritional quality of the food here is insane. Everything is WAY too big and fatty. This in turn, has led to me having stomach issues for almost the entire week. I feel bloated all the time and I can't usually finish any of my meals. You don't realize how fat people are here until you go somewhere in which being beefy is not the norm. Upside to all of this, I feel better about myself than I have in a long time.

The second thing I have noticed is that people here are for the most part, jerks. They do not seem motivated to be friendly, they seem to enjoy pissing people off or at the very least annoying them, and they are loud. Americans also use their hands a lot when they talk and I have found this kind of distracting. The quality of service that you get from stores and restaurants is also severely lacking.

Now that I have said the negatives, I really do have to say that I have enjoyed being back in America. I like being able to understand everything and I like being able to find English books readily available everywhere I go. I also must admit, I forgot how good looking some of the women are here. I like the breadth of places you can go out to eat and I like the abundance of cheese to buy. I am still not sure how I feel about driving though. Driving feels very odd to me and quite frankly, doing it has made me very nervous. It could just be the car I was driving but I do not think I am as fond of getting behind the wheel of a car as I once was.

My brother's wedding went very well and I am glad I was able to come back for it. I think he and his wife are also happy it is over; last I saw them, they looked like sleep deprived zombies. I have been able to see everyone that I wanted to see while I was back with the exception of Ben's parents but I just didn't have any time to make it up there. Which means, Ben, you have a package for you at my parents' house.

I know this has been a somewhat scattered post and that is largely because I am not sure what to say at the moment. It has been a good but somewhat strange week. I am starting to feel homesick and will be glad once I land in Osaka the day after tomorrow. Maybe once I am back in Japan, I will be able to look back and analyze the trip a little bit more thoroughly. Right now, just being here and following the schedule I have been has overwhelmed me somewhat and it is hard for me to be very critical.

As it stands right now, the one thing I can say is that I wish I could move most of the Americans out of the United States and move most of the Japanese in to replace them. If I could have an America filled with Japanese people, I would be living in a utopia.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Bags Are Packed

And I am ready to roll! In about six and a half hours I will begin the train ride to Kansai airport about three and a half hours away. I will get to the airport at about 11:30am and that will give me four hours to get through security and find out where I am supposed to be.

Around 3:30pm I will board my plane and begin the ten hour flight back to the US. I will get to Los Angeles around 3:30pm on the same day, having gained a day because I am going back in time. At LAX I get to do the whole customs thing and then a two hour wait until I board yet another plane that will take me to Boise. While everything should be pretty straightforward and easy, it will still make for a long day. I am not sleeping tonight in hopes that by the time I land in Idaho and everyone is ready for bed, I will be too. It is my goal to not be jet lagged during my week long stay. The downside is that if I can't trick my body into going to sleep on Idaho time, I am going to have issues. Right now, I am on almost the exact opposite sleep schedule that Idaho people are and if I maintain this pattern, I am going to have a lot of nights without sleep and a lot of days in which I am groggy. I DO NOT WANT JET LAG!!

There are only two minor concerns that I have with the trip. First, I am bringing three bottles of the best sake I have found while living here back with me. I have been all over the net trying to figure out exactly how much I can bring into the US legally and I have yet to find a straight answer. One site said as much as I want as long as the dollar value of the actual alcohol in the beverage doesn't exceed $1.80. How in the hell am I supposed to know how much straight alcohol is equal to that dollar amount? Another place said up to one litre of booze and yet another place said, two bottles. The bottom line is that I am bringing three bottles and if they find out and have issues with that, I will solve the problem by enjoying a bottle right there in the customs line. The second possible problem I may face has to do with whether or not they will count my camera backpack (a very small backpack made for cameras) as a carry on or a personal item. I think I will be okay here and the bag will count as a personal item. If it does not, I am going to have issues. There is no way I will allow my camera to be checked after all of the stuff I have been reading about how much camera equipment gets ripped off when checked. One solution may be that I go to a gift shop and buy some tiny lame thing just to get a bag and put the camera bag into it. I have heard this works so I am hopeful I can find a solution if the need arises. Other than that, it should be smooth, albeit, long sailing.

I look forward to seeing everyone and feel somewhat like Santa Claus because I have more presents packed up than I do actual stuff for me to use and wear while on the trip. For once, I will have less to carry when I come back home than when I left. Anywho, I have a few more things to do and then I am going to go my favorite ramen place to eat my last official meal in Japan for a while. See you all in a matter of hours!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Vacation Commences

Well, I just finished the last of my classes for the week which means that I am now on vacation. Tomorrow I will spend the day amassing all of the stuff people want me to bring back with me and then Monday will be spent packing and cleaning. Tuesday morning I will get up bright and early and head for the airport.

A fun time should lay ahead of me and I am looking forward to seeing everyone. Now to find some dinner.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Hung Up On Suicide

An article came out today about Japan's suicide numbers for 2006 and it prompted me to do a little research for some comparative analysis.

First, read this article.

Basically, the article says that while the suicide rate dropped slightly this past year, it still topped 30,000 for the ninth year in a row. Why is this such a big deal? Let me put it into perspective for you.

Japan's population is just under 130 million people and the land mass of Japan is slightly larger than that of California. The United States has a population around 300 million people and a land mass that makes Japan look like a speck of dust. Here you have this tiny country with less than half of the US population but with a suicide rate as big as our own. Thats crazy. If Boise, Idaho was representative of Japan, the entire city would have killed themselves in about seven years if it had the same suicide rate.

So why do Japanese people kill themselves is such numbers and Americans as a whole do not? I think there are two reasons. First, most of the American population is of a Christian faith. Suicide is a big no no in Christianity and therefore, is somewhat of a taboo in American society. Most of Japan would say they are not religious but like other Asian cultures, the society is built around Buddhism. The odd part is statistically, more people associated with Christianity or Islam kill themselves than people of Buddhist or Hindu-based faiths. Secondly, Japan has historically seen suicide as a brave and honorable way out and a way to relieve your family of the burden and shame you believe you have have put upon them. Being unemployed, being found guilty of a crime no matter the seriousness, bad school grades, ugliness, bullying both in school and in the workplace are all excuses I have seen for people offing themselves here.

School kids have a very high suicide rate in both countries but Japan's is worse. Usually, if a student kills themselves it's due to bullying. You can say that there is bullying in US schools too but it is not the same. Bullying is much worse and much crueler here, when is the last time you heard about an American girl getting her little finger cut off by her "friends" who then wanted to serve it in a bowl of curry? Never right, that happened last week here. If the stuff that kids say to me is half of what gets said to their peers, I can see why they become so demoralized. Lately, I have had to crack down in one of my own classes because I have one student who will not stop hounding another student about his weight and I won't tolerate it. This same kid has said stuff to me before but I am an adult, not an eleven year old, and can handle it. And when I say that this kid is hounding the fat kid, I am not kidding, in the sixty minutes of class this kids spent forty-five of them ragging on the other kid even after I told him not to. Aside from the bullying, students in Japan are forced to deal with a lot more stuff sooner than kids in the US. Can you imagine taking a test that will determine the rest of your life when you are fifteen? Kids here do just that every March or April. They are forced to mature faster than children in the States and I think that takes a toll on them.

Anywho, I also found the methods that people use to kill themselves somewhat interesting. In Japan, the big three ways to send yourself out are hanging, jumping, and trains. What travel guides don't tell you about Mt. Fuji is that at the base of it is a forest that the Japanese call the "Ocean of Trees" and each year they find over a hundred bodies of people that chose that forest as a nice place to leave this world. It has gotten so bad there that a group is posting signs in the forest telling people that if they are in debt, suicide isn't the way and they can help them.

The issue of death by train also got to the point where the JR company, the folks that run the train system, issued a statement that warned people against jumping on to the tracks or else the company would fine the person's family for the time and money lost by having to stop the train line and clean up the mess. You see, in places like Tokyo, hundreds of thousands of people ride the trains each day. If one person gets splatted by a train, they have to shut down the line, investigate and clean up the stain on the railroad. This delay can inconvenience tens of thousands of people depending on what train line has to shut down and what time of a day it is. Usually the delays are only half an hour or so but half an hour is a lot of time and money. This means that if you were to jump in front of a train on the Yamanote Line in Tokyo at rush hour, your family could end up having to pay thousands of dollars for your selfish act. Since that rule has been put into place, more people go out into the countryside where less people will be delayed by their becoming a bloody, chunky splotch on the tracks and that way their families don't have to pay too much of a fine.

Many people jump from apartment buildings to end their lives. While it may be morbid, it makes for good reading when articles come out about how lucky one guy is to be alive after a suicidal schoolgirl brushed him on her way to her abrupt end on the pavement. That was a news story two weeks ago. There are very few suicides here that involve guns or drugs and that is due largely to the fact that there aren't many guns or drugs here. Death by over-medicating would be a pain in Japan because their drugs are so weak. A Tylenol in Japan is half the strength of one in the US and most drugs here are the same way if you are going to OD on something here, you are going to need a lot of it. Trains, hanging, and jumping are much quicker and more effective ways.

I know that in writing this, it sounds like I don't really care about all of this and that I find it kind of funny. Suicide is a tragic thing and it sucks that people get to the point where they see it as their only option but it is just so common here that I probably see at least two or three news articles a week, reporting some random suicide. It is hard not to get somewhat jaded over it because if I were to feel bad every time I read about some kid hanging himself or throwing herself off a building, I would be depressed several times a week. I find differences in Western and Japanese culture fascinating and this topic is one that stands out to me as a blatant example of such a difference. I don't mean to be rude or morbid, I am just curious.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

One Week

That is how long I have until I am sitting on a plane, heading back to the States. I am getting excited and think it will be a pretty fun time. If you want anything from Japan, speak now or get no goodies. I have already heard what some people want but from those of you I haven't if you want a little something something from Japan-land let me know and I will bring it with me.

In other news, I heard back from Shure about my earbuds. They said that as long as I had my receipt they would replace them for free. When I head back to the US, I will need to look for that receipt, I think I kept it but I have no clue where it would have ended up. Either way, I was happy with their response and they put me in contact with their Japanese distributor in Tokyo and he already emailed me as well. There is hope I will have my little buddies back soon. As for the trip, I think I found some earbuds to borrow for the flight so that should get me by until I can send mine in.

Last night and today was kind of fun. Today, my group had a big meeting in Himeji so last night, everyone came into the city early and partied. It was good to hang out with all of my work buddies, I don't get to see much of them and I do like most of them. We went to a beer garden and had all you can eat and drink and then we headed out for some booze fueled karaoke. My boss and I found out we both really like to sing punk tunes when the mood strikes and we rocked the mic with "Linoleum" from NOFX. We rocked so hard, we ended up doing the song one more time as an encore for the rest of our co-workers who had no clue either of us liked punk and we stunned by the shear rockage that my boss and I put out. My co-workers also found out that 50 Cent and I get along alright too; it was all good fun until we left around 3am and had to split a $400.00 bill. After that, I went to another teacher's apartment and crashed there for a few hours before we got up to hit the meeting.

The meeting was entertaining because my boss was so hungover he was barely functional. I actually started the meeting and distributed materials and talked about some stuff that was supposed to be his to do but he was a bit late in getting there and none of us wanted the whole thing to go any longer than it had to so I figured if we started on time, we would end on time and the plan worked. Fun moment of the day came when we realized that our boss was asleep in a very strange position against the wall of the classroom we were in. After his nap, he was much better and more coherent so that was good. It's good to know that my company pays him to be a role-model and inspiration to us all.

There have been a few other odds and ends going on too but nothing blogworthy just yet. Other than that, I am just trying to focus on getting through one of my tougher weeks out of the month and then get on a plane to come and visit everyone. I am looking forward to it all.