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Browsing Posts published in October, 2006

A Grande Discovery

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After a half weekend, I finally had a really good day off. What’s that? A half weekend? Oh allow me to explain. Every now and again apparently, AEON schools have a fun little event they call “Sunday Open.” This means that they open up on the normally closed Sunday, so that they can interview prospective students, teach some special classes, and so on. I was the lucky teacher chosen to work this Sunday Open, so I thus lost half of my weekend. I was paid for it, and it was only 5 hours of work, but I do have to say that I might have rather just slept all that afternoon rather than waking up and going to work on my usual day off.

But that’s all behind me now. Today, you see, I ventured to the nearby station called Soga. The last time I came here was sometime at the end of September when I was still trying to find a cell phone. I had heard that Blanchard got an au phone without his actual Gaijin Card, so I figured I could maybe try the same thing. I had gone to the nearby Goi au shop to check and they had (apparently wrongfully) told me that it would be impossible to get a phone without the magic card. Anyways, I knew Soga was a fairly large junction station, so I had assumed there would be big department stores and other cell-phone-carrying shops in the area. After walking around the station and not finding anything, I walked further away in hopes of finding something. After about 45 minutes of walking, I was in Chiba, the next big city up. Ah well. A wasted morning, and a ton of walking. After that fiasco, I figured that Soga was a bust and there was nothing there except pachinko parlors.

I recently found out from one of my students that there is a major shopping mall in Soga, apparently a short (and free) bus ride away from the station. Score. I checked out the mall, called Ario, and it is pretty nice. Everything looked brand new actually. Most of the stores are clothing, so there wasn’t too much for me to actually buy, but there was also a huge Ito Yokado department store inside that was kind of cool to walk around. After Ario, I hopped onto the free shuttle to the next place, called Festival Walk, which was equally if not more impressive. An oasis of picante sauceFestival Walk had a huge arcade, Sega Arena, a movie theatre, and a really nice internet cafe. The net cafe seemed way nicer than others I have seen, with a bigger cubicle, better recliner, and nicer computer/LCD TV monitor. And not only were there free soft drinks, but there is free smoothies and soft serve ice cream. Pretty good deal, and this place also looks brand new. On top of all that, there is also free darts and billiards, making this place a good candidate for an all-nighter. I think I might try it sometime soon. This Friday is a holiday, so maybe then.

And the best discovery of the day was a place called Poca Tacos. At long last, MEXICAN FOOD! I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the place. In case you didn’t know, Mexican food in Japan is about as rare as any food can be here, so it was a welcome sight. I ate a bunch of food there, and it was really good. I had nachos, a small burrito, and a bunch of chili cheese tacos. Sounds weird, but they were pretty good. This place is only about a 10 minute train ride from Goi, which means I’ll be likely visiting Soga a lot more from now on. Please see the picture on the right to see the discovery of the weekend. And yes, the napkin does say “Taco Time.” Viva Soga.

A spot of Engrish

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Thought you might like a quick dash of Engrish. I saw this at the Bakery Town in LaLaPort, the mall in Minami Funabashi.
mmm bread

Hello America (and maybe some other countries). It is a rainy Monday night in Chiba city, and I am enjoying the last few hours of my weekend. Not having internet hasn’t been as painfully rough as I would have thought, although I do miss having Outlook tell me exactly when I have a new e-mail, reading pointless news sites about gizmos, video games, and gadgets, and of course AIM and Facebook. But I have been coping. However, now that I am almost used to life without a regular internet connection, I have the NTT guys coming to my apartment this Thursday morning to prepare my apartment for a fiber-optic internet connection. Hopefully this will go off quickly and without a hitch. If things go according to plan, I will have not only an internet connection in my apartment, but a super amazing fast one. 100MBps. Yes, that would mean heaven (and major BitTorrent time) for the currently internet-deprived me.

Oh but stories, you want to hear stores about the mystical land of Japan, right? OK here are a few. Nothing spectacular, because in actuality my life here is pretty boring (as opposed to the super exciting life I led in America). Since I haven’t blogged in a while, these also aren’t in any real order let alone chronologically. But if you are sitting at your computer bored enough to navigate to TheLeong.com in the first place, then you may find these mildly amusing.

Ikea
I visited the Swedish furniture and home supply store Ikea, which has a location in Minami Funabashi, about 30 minutes by train away from me. For some reason, I was under the impression that Ikea was supposed to be a cheap place to get somewhat trendy furniture. Brian Blanchard, whom you might know from such films as The IES Train Orientation Video, also came along and was under the same impression. Boy, were we mistaken. The store was huge, colorful, and crowded with hot Japanese chicks. The prices, however, on this European furniture was absolutely ridiculous. I don’t even really know what I was going there to buy in the first place. Maybe a small couch for my apartment, maybe a cheap plastic dresser to store my clothing in. I ended up buying none of these things, because the average price for a sofa I saw there was around 600 bucks US. And no, not a nice comfy couch like you would see on the popular Indiana University Student Television show Hoosier Date?, but a really small weird Japanese-Swedish couch hybrid which would only seat two average stature midgets. You know how Japanese people sit on the floor traditionally? I have come to the conclusion that this is not because of a cultural difference, but rather because it is far too expensive to buy a damn couch at Ikea. The only thing I bought at Ikea ended up being a hot dog for 1 or 200 yen, which was delicious but still not delicious enough to make me not bitter about Ikea.

Gorging
It is actually quite cheap and easy to find good-tasting food in Japan, of both Japanese style and more foreign fare. However, portions here tend to be small, so it is the responsibility for every foreigner here to, on occasion, find a 食べ放題 (all-you-can-eat) and absolutely destroy the place’s profits for that day. One such place I visited was Shakey’s Pizza, which I think was at one point an American chain that went under. All you can eat pizza, pasta, and salad for like 900 yen (about 8 bucks). There is a line to get in, but once you get in you can enjoy a wide variety of pizzas like mushroom, pepperoni, and sausage. Of course, this is still Japan, so there is also a Tuna and Corn pizza, mayonnaise pizza, and a pineapple custard dessert pizza that was actually pretty good.

Tabehoudai find number two is an old favorite. Top Run Super Yakiniku Viking in Makuhari, a dietary staple of the A-Team, has since been renamed Hanamasa Yakiniku Viking. Don’t panic! The place is still mostly the same, although it has been stripped of its sweet name and the Super title. Actually, I think the place is even better now. There are the same favorites as before, like the all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ, consisting mainly of a variety of raw meats that you cook at your table. The make-your-own waffles, ice cream, gyoza, and rice and curry are still all there. But to increase the value of this place, they now also have kara-age fried chicken, fries, takoyaki, about 4 different jelly desserts, and now lamb meat. This place is awesome. Long live the Super Yakiniku Viking. It will always be Top Run to me. 1500 yen for dinner. Is this cheaper than before?

AEON Bootcamp, Parts 2 and 3
Week and a half ago, I had two days of AEON related workshops and training to do, which made my week pretty much short, but also very long. That doesn’t make sense, I know, but it was a weird week. For the first day, I had to take a 2 hour train ride back up to Omiya to have AEON Kids Step-Up Training, which was training just for kids classes. Although I only teach two kids classes, one for 5th graders and one for Junior High kids, the training was still necessary and it covered ALL kids classes, from preschool up. It was fun in a way because I got to see about 10 people that I had Initial Training with, but other than that it was a bit painful because of the repetitive kids training we had all day, including an hour of singing and practicing these kids songs that I don’t even use in my classes. I am pretty sure the AEON Hello Song and dance are secretly a way to summon the devil. Oh well. The day after that, I had an hour and a half journey to the AEON East Japan head office in Shinjuku, where I had a four hour workshop on Self-Study materials that we are preparing to sell to our students. Oh, and I shouldn’t say sell, I mean “providing our students with materials to meet their English dreams.” Yeah, whatever. Anyway, I got to see a few more people from training, but overall I don’t feel like the workshop was that helpful. Then I had to high-tail it back to Goi in time to teach my two evening classes. Nothing like enjoying this busy schedule.

Staff BBQ
Last weekend I went with a bunch of my co-workers to the Yorou Valley, which is about a 45 minute drive from Goi. The weather was a little Fall-chilly-ish, but the BBQ was awesome. We got to the camping ground, set up a BBQ, and ate about 80 bucks worth of grilled meat, vegetables, and yakisoba. One of our students also came along, and she also brought with her a ton of food. We ate a lot and hanged out at the camping ground, then headed back to town. Japanese cookouts or BBQs are a lot different from back in the US, especially among college students (which would mainly just be burgers and hotdogs). It was a really fun time, and again I had to gorge myself on tons of food.

Death Breath
Ah, the headlining story of this blog entry. So I was on the train a week or so ago, minding my business and listening to my iPod. I was standing near the doors, because as usual on the late night trains, all the seats were taken, save for having to uncomfortably cram next to someone, which you just don’t do here. So about 2 or 3 stops before Goi, this girl is waiting at the station with her boyfriend, and they’re being all lovey dovey and stuff saying goodbye, before she gets on the train. She gets on, stands on the other side of the door to the left of me, and she sadly waves her boyfriend goodnight. Boohoo, right. I didn’t pay much attention to it. But once we are away from her station, she slowly turns her head to the right, so that she is no longer facing the car doors, but pointing in my general direction.

I am still minding my own biznass, looking at the passing evening scenery, and I suddenly feel my stomach chur
n and my gag reflex half-kick in. I am smelling something absolutely foul, like what you would imagine Abraham Lincoln’s corpse to smell after a rainy day at the cemetery. What in the world is that smell?? I scream to myself. I spin around, looking for a homeless guy or a huge moldy pile of dog poop, and all of a sudden I realize that the girl who said goodbye to her boyfriend just moments ago was leaning with her head on the train door, facing me, and from her mouth was coming the most revolting breath I have ever smelled in my entire life. I kid you not. Pure toxic wind. If it were not for my self control, I would have vomited all over the train. Her breath was THAT bad. Bad beyond what I would have thought was humanly possible. You could brush your teeth with human feces for a month, then chew on a rotten guinea pig, and your breath would still not compare.

After freaking out internally and realizing that I should probably run to the other end of the train car, my deep rage instead turned quickly into internal laughter, and I almost busted up on the train thinking to myself how bad this girls breath was, and at the thought that her boyfriend was probably back at the other station puking his guts out after making out with his ugly girlfriend with the breath that could cremate old people. Luckily, my stop was soon after, and with it, the opening of the doors and the glory that is fresh air.

Infection

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Hello Kitty everywhere!It’s been forever since I’ve written a blog. I keep wanting to go to an internet cafe, but this past week and a half or so has been pretty busy. I will try later this weekend. Right now I’m at the business support center next to my apartment, using internet for a few minutes before I go to work to start my day at the usual 1PM. Yes, that is pretty sweet.

Please look at the photo on the left. This decent-looking picture taken with my cell phone, when I wasn’t using it to watch morning weather report videos or using its GPS and digital compass to guide me to the nearest convenience store. OK that’s a lie. There are conbinis everywhere, so you don’t need the GPS for that.

The Hello Kitty tissues you see are sickeningly cute, right? Just like everything in this country. But yeah, I didn’t get those at the Sanrio store or anything (as if I would). No, the freaking BANK gave me these as a gift when I opened an account there a few weeks ago. Just goes to show you that Japan has no shame when it comes to cute crap.

I will write more later. Things are good here. I have a few mini-stories, nothing major at all. One funny story is about how I almost puked on the train because some girl passenger has the worst breath I have ever smelled in my entire life. But that story will have to wait until this weekend.

Hot One Breath…

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…is the name of the internet cafe I’m in right now. I was walking around Goi station, near where I live, and saw this huge sign with “HOT ONE BREATH” on it. This being Japan, I assumed it was some kind of sketch establishment, but instead its a small or medium sized internet cafe that is actually one of the cleanest I’ve been in here. So far so good. It also seems to be fairly cheap, so I’ll likely be coming here more until I finally get internet in my apartment.

Speaking of, life has been very good for the most part since coming to Japan. Work, except for the long hours of usually 12 or 1PM until 9PM every day Tuesday to Saturday, is actually pretty fun. One thing has kept things from being perfect, though, and that is a little magic item called the Foreign Alien Registration Card (外国人登録証明書), or Gaijin Card for short. Surprisingly, when registering for the thing the second day after moving into my apartment, I was told that it would take 3 or 4 weeks for them to process it. I’m pretty sure it didn’t take that long to get a Gaijin Card in the past. Anyway, since that is pretty much the main ID for a foreigner living here, not having it has been a bit difficult. First off, I wasn’t able to get a cell phone through DoCoMo, which was a pain in the butt because I was really planning on getting one from them, because I think they have the sweetest phone models. I was at least able to get one with au, and to be honest, I’ve been really happy with it, so no harm no foul. By the way, this is the phone I ended up getting: the Sony Ericsson W43S.

I am also unable to get internet at my apartment until I get my Gaijin Card. I suppose it makes sense, since they want to make sure that I’m a legal resident and everything, but what a pain in the butt. Even after I get my card next week and finish the application, it will take around a month for them to get internet service, since apparently no one in my building already has DSL or fiber internet. So I will likely not have a regular internet connection at my apartment until like mid November. My predecessor at AEON, who lived in my apartment before me, was able to steal wireless from someone until a few months ago, but it disappeared and he didn’t bother to apply for net since he was leaving anyway. Ah well. Internet cafes are not bad, I suppose, but going from my addiction of sitting on the internet for at least a few hours a day to having it only maybe once a week, is a big change. Luckily, my cell phone is helping me cope a bit, since I can do e-mail on it, view some webpages, and read Gmail. Gotta love Japanese technology.

Yesterday and today were my days off, and I am happy to say that I accomplished very little. I was at least able to do some shopping, including buying a nice Japanese-style (by that I mean for use on the floor) chair thing, which is exactly what I was looking for. And it only cost 1500 yen (about $13)! Shopping has to be done either before work or on my days off, since getting off at 9 or 9:30 everyday means that everywhere except for convenience stores and restaurants are closed. The other day, though, I went to the Ito-Yokado department store on my lunch break and bought Pokemon Diamond. I do have to say, it was well worth it. Definitely an awesome game. Uh…and no I am not a nerd. OK fine, shut up.

I don’t know what else I should update you all on right now. To be honest, my life has been pretty boring, since I don’t really do anything exciting. Right now, my usual routine consists of waking up around 11, watching some TV and being lazy in my apartment, then going to work from 12:45ish until 9 or 9:30ish. Work consists of planning lessons, which is pretty easy, since most materials are already made and in the Staff Room, meaning I just flip through the text book for that class, grab a folder of materials, write down some notes, and I’m good to go. I teach on average 4 or 5 lessons a day, each 50 minutes long. Saturdays are about 7 or 8 lessons, but half of them are repeats of classes I’ve already taught that week so it’s super easy. Then I teach the classes. The rest of the day I am sitting in my office/classroom, playing on my phone or doing other random goofing off. My staff is real chill, which is good because I have to hang out with them in the school all day. The school itself is half a floor of a building, with a lobby and reception area, 2 or 3 staff rooms, and about 5 classrooms. Small but efficient. After work every day, I usually grab some dinner at one of the nearby restaurants, then go home to either play DS, watch TV, or both. I sleep around 1AM every day, and then repeat this schedule. Every now and then I’ll vary it up by going to Chiba to hang out with Blanchard, but so far not very exciting.

I went to Tokyo Game Show 2 weekends ago, but I am too lazy to write up anything about it. It was sweet, but really crowded and hot. Lots of nerdy otaku guys taking pictures of booth girls. Very different atmosphere from E3. But either way, it was sweet. Played Metal Gear on PSP, saw Devil May Cry 4, Bleach on Wii, and many other random sweet games. The new Dragonball game on PS2 actually looks amazing, with pretty much any character EVER available to play, all the way from the original Dragonball up to GT. Movie characters also. We also saw Morgan Webb from G4 in the lobby/food area of TGS, and talked to her briefly. I don’t know exactly when the Wii comes out, but I really really want to buy one. I am still very confident that it is going to beat the PS3, if not based on price alone. XBox 360 is already pretty much out of the race, which I think it just hilarious.

I am going to get out of Hot One Breath now, and probably get some ramen for dinner, since aside from Family Restaurants, Goi pretty much only has ramen shops and sketch hostess and “snack” bars. It was embarrassing applying for internet, because they did a lookup of my address and there were all these sketch bars on the list, and I was like “yeah, that’s my neighborhood alright.” The live-action Detective Conan drama special is on tonight at 9, so I will probably be lame and sit at home for 3 hours watching TV.

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