Monday, July 30, 2007

God For An Hour

This morning was CRAZY!!! Maya, Ayako, and I showed up at the school around 11am and so help me, you would have thought that it was 1960 and the Beatles had just walked out on stage. The kids went nuts. I walked into the building and all action stopped dead. It went from kids cheerfully going about their day to, "Holy crap, it's a white guy. Here. Now." After a second of awe, the "Hellos" started in; have you ever had a roomful of kids all greet you in unison, it is an ego trip.

After the initial barrage of salutations, we walked upstairs to the classroom that I would be in and I met my class of kids for the first time. Immediately, kids began to chatter and squirrel about in amazement that they were being visited by a big white guy with huge feet. My feet were a big attraction and there was much talk of my shoe size. It was so funny and cute, I would be teaching class and kids from other classes were wandering in to get their look at the elusive Americanus Caucasionous and then say "Hello."

After the classroom portion of the day, we moved downstairs to play a game. This was somewhat difficult and I feared for my safety and that of the children. Having five kids want to hold your hand as you are walking down stairs is kind of creepy, especially when others are orbiting like small moons around you as you make your way down the wooden steps. After game time and ABC time, there was a brief Q&A session in which the kids got to ask me pressing and controversial questions such as, "What is your favorite type of sushi," and "What is your favorite animal?" Some of the kids raised their hands to ask me questions, only to come forward and just stare at me just like the kids on the "Christmas Story" staring at Santa Claus. They would just come up and have these big goofy grins on their face and after a minute or two Maya would ask them if they wanted to ask me about something and they would just nod at her suggestion, never breaking their stares. The best question was "What are you most afraid of," to which I replied, spiders. Not a fan of spiders.

After class, I was given tea by the head of the school and then she took me to the classroom for kids between one and three years old. They were so friggin' cute! It was lunch time so they were all eating but I still got plenty of stares. After being shown around it was time to go and after being said "goodbye" to about 500 times we left. It was a blast. I may see if the can find me an outfit and then I would be Santa for the school this year. Just seeing their response to me in jeans and a T-Shirt, I can't imagine what they would do in an actual Santa sized Santa showed up speaking English and everything. It may be fun. Anywho, that was my day and I have met my ego boost quota for the year.

Speak Cheerfully

Those are my orders for tomorrow's appearance in a Kindergarten class. Maya, the girl I do private lessons with, my Japanese teacher, and the vile temptress that is up and getting married on me and not to me, convinced me that I need to visit a local kindergarten class her friend teaches.

Evidently, my deep voice, my size, and my volume levels scare kids so I must speak higher and softer than usual. To be kind of a dick, I spoke in my helium voice for a little while and she got a kick out of it. Tomorrow, I am supposed to use my real voice, just higher and softer. Yeah. I am not kidding, we had a discussion about this.

Anywho, it is kind of fun to think that I get to be a special person brought in to talk to and teach the kids for the morning. I used to love guest speakers in school and now I am God....err....a guest speaker. Either way, I am happy.

Maya and her friend are both staying in the room to make sure I don't eat the children and to aid the wee ones that are overcome with awe and bewilderment when confronted with the sheer awesomeness that is me. I await their tears of gratitude and will not be satisfied until two munchkins weep openly in my presence.

I will update after the class to give you a tally of how many truly greatful(terrified) children I encountered and hopefully inspired to be more like myself.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Random Thought Late At Night

Warning: This post contains verbal imagery that may be unfit for some readers.

Why is it that I have a hard time talking on the phone, while naked, to certain people?

This is a very strange phenomenon that I have noticed in the past couple of weeks. My normal day usually starts and ends with me being as naked as the moment I was born, just hairier. I sleep naked usually; my reasoning for this is two fold. First, it is freaking hot and humid in my apartment. Second, I read somewhere that you actually can get a better night's sleep if you do so in the buff and it is true. Who would have thought that boxer briefs could keep me from more lucid dreams and sounder overall sleep? The first few nights of slumbering sans undies were strange. I actually had dreams about being naked in front of people. Very odd. After those first days though, I did begin to sleep sounder. I have no clue why and I am not going to delve into the logistics of it.

On any given night, I would say that if you magically apparated into my apartment about five minutes after I have gotten in from teaching, you would find me nude. I have no problem being naked and seeing that my apartment does get warm and humid even with fans going, taking off my clothes is one of the first things I do when I walk in the door. I figure, I live alone, there are no windows that other people could peer in from (not for my sake but for theirs, I wouldn't want another man to be ashamed of himself after seeing me and I don't want women flocking from their significant others to bask in my glory)and most of the time no one ever comes to my door or calls me to go out and do stuff. My stark white body affects no one but me.

But here is the kicker, I do get quite a few phone calls. It befuddles me but there are some people that I simply cannot speak to if I am naked. I know they can't see me and they have no clue that I am minus clothing (though I think some just assume) so I am not sure why it bugs me. For example, I was happily typing on my computer when my dad rang in to talk to me. Before, I actually started the conversation, I ran over and go some jersey shorts on. I can't talk to my mom or some of my other friends naked either. It is very strange and I am not sure why I am fine talking to some people in my full glory and not others. My mom I can understand but my friends, who cares? For some reason, a small part of my brain does.

I don't think it is a purely sexual reason either. There are members of both sexes that I can't telecommunicate with in the nude and neither side has a bigger portion than the other. There are some times when I even get uncomfortable IM'ing certain people naked. It isn't a big deal, I am merely curious as to why my mind functions like that.

The really funny part is that, thanks to this blog post, I have planted a seed. Every time you are IM'ing me or talking to me or maybe even getting an email from me, you will wonder, "Is Tyson naked right now," or "Was he naked when he wrote this?" And you will never know...but the answer is probably, yes. Don't ask and I won't tell. Pretend like you never read this. But for your information, I am not naked at this very moment.(@_-)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Things That Drive Me Nuts

This post is going to be a partial up date and partial rant. Bare with me.

First, I mentioned a while ago that I am climbing Mt. Fuji in August. I am still strolling up the great mountain but what was once a cheap and simple, two day excursion to the top of a mountain and back has turned into a cluster of niggling details and rising expenses. The price tag of this trip was once only about $100 and over the course of the past couple of days, it has gone upwards to around $400 possibly. I have found out that my special ticket that lets me ride as many local trains as I want in a period of five days is NOT good on the exact days I am going to Fuji-san, which means that I can no longer take the local trains to or from the mountain for free after the cost of this ticket. This leaves me with two options: A) I take a crowded, uncomfortable overnight bus to Tokyo and then from Tokyo I take another bus to Fuji. I do not like the buses and I do not like the fact that my feet swell up after sitting for so long and I don't want to deal with foot issues before I even start up the mountain which leaves me with B)Take the shinkansen (fast train) to Tokyo, enjoy a day and night in Tokyo and then leave the following morning to climb Mt. Fuji. If it were not for the fact that the shinkansen round trip will cost me almost $300 and a hotel another $60, I would love this option.

So I am now faced with the choice of spending the money, which I have, I just don't want to spend and go climb Mt. Fuji or never go at all. The frame of time I have to climb the great mountain is dwindling and the upcoming window of opportunity is pretty much the last time I will be able to make the trip. Faced with that, I would rather spend the money and do something that I can look back on and have the memories of rather than not do it at all. So much for saving a bunch of cash this month but in trade, I get a cool experience. It is a good deal but I am still not keen on the money part and probably won't be any time soon.

On to topic number two! Peppy Kids Club (my company) has to be one of the most retarded, poorly run, companies in Japan. Their lack of communication and ability to resolve issues in a timely fashion has nipped me in the ass. Ben is coming in September, this is good. I asked for my time off over a month ago and never heard back from my company. I talked to my boss and he said that he saw no reason I wouldn't get the time off and to go ahead and book my hotels and what not. So after figuring all of that out, he comes back and tells me that the company only gave me three of the seven days off that I requested. This is a week and a half after he tells me to book my stuff. So, I can do one of two things. I can be a good employee and work when I am scheduled or I can go through with my plans that he OK'd to begin with. I am opting for the latter option. This means I will call in sick for two days and tick off my main office but at this point I just don't care. If they were going to end up shafting me anywho, the least they could have done was tell me in a timely fashion. Everyone I teach with knows I am calling in and so I know I will not take everyone by surprise when I do it but still, I shouldn't have to do this. I have been with this company long enough that I feel entitled to a few things. I just find it moronic that the person that is covering for me on my initial days off is still getting paid whether he is teaching or not so why not have him teach for my full requested time instead of leaving him to sit in his apartment and get paid to do it? Peppy Kids Club is run by morons.

Finally, I figured out why I have been wanting to come home so bad lately. I realized this last night as I laid awake; I am wasting my time here. Most of my time is spent in front of this computer screen. I am either watching movies or playing a game. Why in the world am I doing this when I am living is such a cool country? It is because I have nothing better that I could be doing. There are no clubs or groups I can join. No gyms in my area. No movie theaters. And I don't really have any friends I could be hanging out with. If I ever want to do anything, I have to travel at least two hours and spend a decent chunk of money and it is all getting really old. I am sick of wasting my time on the computer and frustrated that I am not left with a lot of other options. I talked this over with the guy that lived here before me and he wholeheartedly agreed that there isn't much more that I could be doing that I have not. This is why he moved into the city. He suggested I move as well but if I were to do that I would need to commit to another year and I am not willing to do that with my current company. I don't feel like I am affecting or getting through to a lot of the kids and I feel that that stems from a lack of interest on their part and a lack of motivating material on my company's part. I am supposed to stick to the material and not deviate a whole lot so it is difficult to spice up the crap I am left with. I am trying but I am just getting disenchanted with the whole system and am starting to crave a lot of Western conveniences like a real apartment, a kitchen, and a car. And food. And the idea of getting a pet. And, God forbid, a girlfriend. And an XBox 360.

Me and eating have been at odds lately. I finally found the double-edge sword I have been looking for. First, you guilt yourself about what you eat and then you guilt yourself for the money you spend to eat. In the end, you eat much less. It is amazing.

Tomorrow, Summer School starts so that will keep me kind of busy for the next eight days. Basically, Peppy Kids Club realized that they didn't have a steady cash flow throughout the year and earnings dipped in the summer time so they decided to through together a new song and dance(literally) and a couple of new workbooks and then charge the family's of the participating children another $150.00. Great marketing can sometimes make for sub-par teaching. The new material is pretty lame and I despise the dances and songs but Peppy needs money so I get a break in my normal routine and get to teach more classes than usual for eight days straight. YAY for me! On the upside, it seriously does break up the monotony of teaching a bit and I welcome that. I just hate having to sing and dance and where an apron for one of the class levels.

Anywho, that brings me to the end of the update. Stuff is going to get kind of busy starting from tomorrow and going into October so I probably won't be writing anymore of the, "Oh, I am sooo bored" posts for a while. This is a good thing for all involved parties.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Mega Saver Mode

Be it homesickness, general disappointment in my company, boredom, or a combination of all three, I am ready to come back to the United States. If it were possible I would be on the flight with Ben when he leaves here in the middle of September. Then the dreaded being a grown up thing kicks in and I realize I wouldn't have as much money as I would like saved up to come back with and if I did come back I would need to get a job ASAP and be dirt poor for a while. No thanks.

Instead, I will stay here until the first part of next year and come home with somewhere between $7000 and $10,000, depending on what the exchange rate is at the time and whether or not I go to Australia on the way back home (Ben check your email!). So now I am in Mega Saver Mode.

Historically, money and I have always had a rather fleeting relationship. Basically, I got rid of as much of it as I could as fast as I could. I like to spend money, I am not going to lie. If I get stressed or depressed, the first thing I want to do is go shopping. I am not sure why because I know that anything I would buy would probably not help my emotions at the time but still, I like to shop. I also have rather expensive tastes in things and that doesn't help. Over the past few years though, I have gotten much better with money. Yeah, I still like my toys but I also know how important it is to save as well. So this last month, I made it a goal to save the Japanese equivalent of $1000 from my last paycheck and...I DID IT!!!

I get paid on Tuesday and as of this very moment, I have $1002.50 in my checking account. The next step is to have a bit more than $2000 in there this time next month. Despite my Mt. Fuji trip and some other expenses that need attending, I think I should be able to do it or at least come very close. The goal for September is $3000 but I am not sure if that will fly or not. With Ben coming, I will be spending a bit more than I will have been over the past couple of months but it is for a good reason and it will be fun. After Ben leaves, it is back into hardcore saving mode until I leave. By the time I am ready to leave, the money I have saved plus my bonus and the money from selling all of my stuff again, I should be able to easily meet my goal.

I have never had good luck saving up and so I am pretty proud of hitting my goal for the month. I learned that the way to get myself to save up is to turn it into a game. I am constantly challenging myself to see how I can save money on trains and shopping and I am not buying very much extra stuff. It is actually kind of fun, though today and tomorrow will be pretty tight. I think I have about $10 to last me the two days and I need some stuff for dinner so by the time I go to the ATM machine on Tuesday, I am going to be pretty much cashless. That is okay though because I met my goal.

(*^_^*) Me = Happy! d(^_^)b

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

To the Gion Matsuri

Day before yesterday, I was a bad boy and fell ill. I was so ill that I could not go to work and had to call in sick. Then, as if touched by God, I was miraculously healed and felt so good I ventured into Kyoto for the Gion Festival.

The Gion festival is a Kyoto tradition that started 1100 years ago. The first Gion festival was held to combat the evil spirits that were spreading a epidemic-sized outbreak of syphilis throughout Kyoto and other parts of Japan. Pay no attention that the disease was spread only primarily to and by those that frequented the red light districts of the cities; no, it was evil spirits. Anywho, the festival includes a big parade in which massive floats are wheeled down the wide boulevards of Kyoto and it takes about three hours for them to roll down the whole route of the parade. The reason being is that the design of these floats has changed very little over the millennia since the festival's inception. We are talking about two and three story floats full of people playing flutes and drums, to artifacts meant to drive away the spirits. all of which is being pulled by twenty or so men with big thick ropes. When one of these rolling ghost busters wants to turn a corner, a whole crew goes into action laying slabs of bamboo out on the streets and then throwing water over them and then pulling the wagon across the bamboo to angle it in the new direction it is wanting to go. The whole process needs to be repeated two or three times in order for the float to be able to start off in its new direction. It is something to see.

After the parade, Terri had to go to work so I figured I would wonder around Kyoto for a while. I knew Andre was planning on coming to Kyoto that day and so I tried to give him a call. Creepily, just as I was calling him, he bumped into me on the street. Somehow in a city with 12 million people, Andre found me at the exact moment I was trying to find out where he was. Cue Twilight Zone music here. Anywho, we wandered around for a bit and ate at my beloved Wendy's. Shortly after that, we pared ways and I headed back to Fukuchiyama. It was a pretty fun day and I am glad that I saw the festival but I must say, I was expecting more from it, I am not sure why, but I just was. Either way, it was better than working.

Here are some pictures so you can get an idea of how big these floats were. I know some of the pictures are crooked and that is because I was having to hold my camera above my head to get a lot of the shots I did.

These are a couple of the bigger floats making their way down the street. You can get a good idea of their size by looking at this shot. Due to their height, there are probably only a handful of routes that these floats can take because of the power lines hanging everywhere.

Here is a closeup shot of one of the floats, you can see the band playing in the top section. The guys that sit on the roof used to signify something but now they are really only there to ensure the float doesn't hit a power line.

The smaller floats have it easy because they can simply be picked up and rotated to turn the corners. This is one of the big guys preparing to get turned. You can see the crew laying down the slats of bamboo and wetting them so that it gives the wheels something to slide on.

The guys in blue standing at the front of the float are basically in charge of steering the wagon. The Romans used fat guys with big drums to steer their boats, the Japanese use little guys with golden fans. When it comes time to turn the wagon, all of the drivers brace themselves and give a good yell and then wave their fans in the direction they want the guys to pull the ropes. This is a lot of fun to watch because almost every time the wagon gets jerked, one of the drivers almost falls off.

This guy obviously didn't get the memo that said to come dressed in modern traditional clothing.

The owner of this museum adheres to a strict business code to keep his shop running smoothly. "Open when I wake up and closed when I must go."

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Near Miss

Well, I got lucky yesterday and today. The typhoon that was supposed to hit my area yesterday morning swerved out toward the ocean a little and I never felt a thing from it. It rained lightly yesterday but I was so bored I still went out for a bike ride abd by the time I got back from the ride, the rain had stopped altogether.

I just woke up and by the looks of it, today is even nicer than yesterday. It isn't raining at all, it is just a bit cloudy.

Other than that, nothing else is going on. I figured I should just post to say that the typhoon didn't feel like making me wetter than I already was.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Gettin' Wet

As I type this, I am literally in the quiet before the storm. Man-yi, the biggest typhoon to hit Japan in ten years is getting closer to me. Yesterday and earlier today it rained like crazy. The river near the class I taught at today rose about three feet from the time I started teaching to the time I finished and my region of Japan is supposed to get two feet of rain in the next twenty-four hours. More reasons I am perfectly happy to be on the third floor of a concrete apartment building.

All in all, it has been a very wet few days. Right now is the first time it has stopped raining in almost four days and yesterday, it was raining so hard that my town was under a flood advisory. A good portion of the roads in the town I taught at this evening were under anywhere from half an inch to an inch of water and rain was still coming down.

I do not want this post to alarm anyone because I am in all actuality, quite safe. I am just a little sick of getting rained on. :)

Anywho, that is what I have been dealing with lately, lots and lots of moisture. Odds are pretty good that when I wake up in the morning it will be pouring again. I don't mind the rain, it is just when you don't have a car and there is actually a typhoon occurring, riding your bike is not the most pleasant experience in the world.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Bring On Summer School

In my company's bid to rake in more money...err...educate the children, the whole Summer School thing has kicked into full swing. I just got back from another pointless meeting to practice my Summer School stuff and am sick of the material before I have even had a chance to teach it. So that was my day today, attending a meeting and then coming back home. At least I can take heart in knowing that I definitely was on par with the Japanese teacher demos but studied about 98% less than they did.

Not much happening in other news. Oh wait, one new thing to report. I am climbing Mt. Fuji on August 14th. I am going with a girl I work with and her dad. They are going to be meeting me there. The first day should be easy and then were are in a hut for the night. The climb the following morning isn't a huge one but it should be fun and I am sure it will make me sore for the following day's Obon festivities. That is pretty much my August event calendar at a glance.

September will rock because Ben is coming. I am really looking forward to his visit and I am 98% sure I got all of my time off that I asked for.

I have been writing more for Videolamer and that has bit into writing on here a bit. Everyone on that site seems pretty cool and I am enjoying talking about games again with people my age. I have also added a link to that site in the above links section on the right of the page if you feel the need to wander over and take a look. Be prepared for some pretty jaded gamers if you do.

I still haven't heard from that high school in Tokyo so with each day that goes by, my hopes of teaching history in Japan are dwindling. I am not horribly upset by this solely due to the fact that I am pretty much ready to head back to the United States, at least for a while. Why, I do not know, but I can almost feel my youth draining slowly from my body and I am only twenty-seven. I hate feeling old and I am not sure why I do but my age and lack of a concrete career or meaningful relationship with the opposite sex is definitely contributing to it, if not the sole reasons for it. I wish I felt like I was nineteen again sometimes, minus the drinking. I just don't want to feel old and discontented anymore.

Other than the feeling aged bit, life has been pretty good. Aki wasn't able to hang out in Osaka the other day but I have communicated with her and am still confident that she definitely wants to go out some night when she gets done with her training. Here's to hoping but at this point, unless she shows huge promise, it won't turn into much because I am now in the mindset of going back to the States and in all honesty, would do so before Christmas if I were able. I am very torn because I love Japan and the people here but I don't have a future with my company and I don't have a relationship to keep me here so I don't really have much of a reason to stay. I wish that were different because it will be very hard for me to leave here.

Anywho, I am going to call this post finished because I am hungry and want to find something to eat. See ya! (^_^)

Friday, July 06, 2007

Weekly Happenings

Nothing super special has been going on this week but I have started some things that could turn into something if things go well.

First, I have applied for a new job. If I were hired, I would be moving to Tokyo to teach World History at an international high school. The school is for Japanese kids who will be moving to a Western country and having all of the lessons in English is a way to prepare them for the experience. The downside to this job is that I would have to move to Tokyo. This is also an upside but to me, moving is one of the single biggest pain-in-the-ass things you can do and I loathe it. The big upside is that I would be teaching history and possibly English but it would be in the same way that I would do it in the United States and that would be good. I know forty-four other people have applied for the position but I think I have pretty good odds of at least getting a call due to the fact that my degree is in both, education and history. I submitted my resume day before yesterday and haven't heard anything, but here's to hoping.

This weekend I am going to be going to Osaka. Well, let me rephrase that. This weekend I will be going to Osaka if a girl that I am trying to get a date with is not busy. Yeah, that is more like it. Anywho, Aki is in Osaka at the moment and seemed open to the idea of me coming down and hanging out with her for the day so we will see.

Work is's work. Nothing horrible and nothing great has happened lately. I have finally gotten to the point where I can put myself on auto-pilot and pretty much zone out through most of my lessons. I hate to do this but when I don't, the kids drive me up a wall. I simply don't have the patience anymore to teach kids who for the most part, are unwilling to learn. When I don't tune out, I feel like I am wasting my time with 98% of them. At least this way, I can do my job and it doesn't ruin my mood for the rest of the day. This is part of the reason I applied for the new job, I know I shouldn't be working for Peppy anymore but do because it gives me money and money is good. As a teacher, I am burnt out with the company, the subject, and the kids.

I watched Fast And Furious: Tokyo Drift a couple of days ago. I was glad to see that they actually went to Tokyo to film it. It was kind of fun to watch the show and be all, "Hey, I have been there!" I would love to know where they found all of the hot Japanese schoolgirls to be in one place at the same time but alas, I am sure that is movie magic and not real life. Overall, it was a good movie though.

In other news, when I promised my kids goodies from America, my good intentions ended up screwing me. Too many kids + not enough presents = angry kids. I need to find a way to remedy this but I am not sure how. Either way, for the immediate future, I am going to be dealing with rightfully disappointed children.

Oh oh, one more thing. I've started writing for a video game site called, Videolamer. Here is the link to the site. If you check up on it every now and then, you might see something by me on there. I have been reading the page for a while and so I am excited to be able to be part of the staff.

Anywho, I am going to end this post but will keep everyone updated as to my job and relationship status. Later.

Monday, July 02, 2007

My Trip To Ninja Land

When someone says the word "ninja" all sorts of stuff can creep into your mind. Guys running around in black pajamas. The same guys using swords and cool gadgetry to evade capture and detection. Or a guy in black pajamas and a gruff voice answering all of your most pressing inquiries that you post to his website. Whatever your mind's eye shows you, ninjas are a subject of legend. As it turns out, the birthplace of Japanese ninjistu is about four hours away from my house and I went there yesterday.

Terri and I had talked about going there for some time and while I was on vacation, Terri decided what day we were to embark on our little adventure to a small farming town called, Iga. Iga is in Mie prefecture, halfway between Osaka and Nagoya. It is a lush, green place that at some point was home to a farmer who decided he had enough of rice growing and wanted to become a master of stealth and deception. Basically, he was a man like most other men.

Ninjitsu did not start in Japan. It actually has roots going back to India and the birth of Buddhism. As Buddhism spread throughout Asia, so did some of the base theories of ninjitsu. It was not until it reached Japan though that people took those theories, militarized them, and devoted their lives to studying how to make their fledgling art more lethal. You have to love the Japanese.

Within the formal art of ninjitsu, there were really only two families that excelled at their craft. These were the Iga and Koga ninja clans. Both clans were farmers by trade and lived in areas surrounded by small mountains. Being a farmer was an excellent profession for the ninja. The clothing that Japanese farmers traditionally wear allows for excellent movement and protection from the elements. The tools of the farmer make for very able weaponry. Sickles, chains or rope, and small knives were all readily accessible and when coupled with the knowledge of a skilled woodsman or hunter, became lethal. During the time when ninjitsu blossomed in the countryside of Japan, it was illegal for anyone who was not a samurai to carry a sword. This made the need for other weapons even greater. The other nice part about being a farmer is that you were almost totally ignored by anyone other than farmers. This made for the ultimate disguise.

Over time, the ninjitsu became adept at spycraft, concealment, the use of a little known substance called, gunpowder, and swords. For the most part, everything you may know and love about ninjistu is true. They were some of the earliest recorded snipers, they were some of the best swordsmen, and they were experts at using anything in their immediate vicinity to kill, maim, or confuse people. Ninjas were indeed badass.

Here are three often overlooked ninja facts: 1) Ninjas did not dress in black, they preferred clothing with a navy blue tint because in real world nighttime conditions, black stands out. Navy blue blends in much better and it was believed to deter vipers. Both good things when sliding through the underbrush in the dark. 2) There were female ninjas and at times, they were much more useful than men because women were more often overlooked and underestimated by their male counterparts. 3) Ninjas were all about family and community. Very few people outside a ninja village were ever privy to their secrets or training. If you were born into a family or village of ninja, then you would also be a ninja. Many ninja secrets died with the last person in a ninja family's bloodline.

Now that I have reaffirmed all of your ninja beliefs, I am going to shatter them. It is very true that ninjas rocked but sadly, all of the things that made them superior assassins and spies are now used to make money and entertain children. The once thriving ninja headquarters of Iga is now a tourist trap riddled with hourly performances, cute cartoon visages, and souvenir shops offering to dress up your kids like ninjas for only five dollars. If there was ever such a cool profession turned into such a dorky sideshow, I have yet to see it. The ninja museum was very cool but the whole atmosphere was ruined by the corny ninja combat exhibition complete with video game sound effects and cheesy jokes. If the true ninja were around today, the streets would flow with the blood of the shameless marketers and tourism officials that capitalize on their once respectable and envied craft. To be able to see the truly remarkable and ingenious tools and training of such a somber profession and then to have it marred by women showing you around the area in hot pink ninja outfits is just kind of pathetic.

I came away from the experience with two outlooks:

1) What a sucky waste of money.
2) I just saw the birthplace of modern ninjitsu. Cool.

It was at least a fun day trip to a place that most people don't get to see and I enjoyed it for that. I just wish the journey could have had more substance. But, I did get some fun pictures.

This is the "ninja train" that takes you to the area of the ninja museum. It is also the commuter vehicle for the everyday ninja in all of us that have to go to work and don't have a car.

Yup, you are looking at a ninja manhole cover. No exploitation going on in this quiet town.

This is a member of the much feared Wee Brigade of The Yellow Dragon Clan. I barely escaped this encounter with my life.

Dressing up like a ninja isn't just for kids. I can't imagine being married to this man. Then again, in stealthy garb like that, maybe no one sees him and she can pretend to be a normal woman.