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.

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.

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.