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Browsing Posts published in December, 2006

おっさん?!

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Merry Christmas everyone!

Although being in Japan makes Christmas feel less different, it’s been a nice relaxing and fun weekend so far, and the rest of today should be fun as well. Only 2 days of work this week, then Kansai, then a few more days off, then back to work. I kind of wish I had gone back to the States for the holiday, but I don’t even know if I would have been able to take this short week off from AEON, so it’s OK. I’m looking forward to just having a week off period. Hope everyone is having an awesome time off! I am also now 23, so I guess that makes me an old man. I feel as young as a 22 year old though!

3連休

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It’s Saturday afternoon, and I’m sitting at home. That’s right, no work! I’m not on Christmas Break yet, since X-Mas is more of a date holiday here than anything else, but I only have to work next Tuesday and Wednesday before I’m off for a solid week. A SOLID FREAKIN’ WEEK! Today would normally be a working day, but thanks to the great emperor of this fine country, it is a holiday. Thank you for being born, Emperor Akihito. Sure, the emperor of Japan doesn’t really do a whole lot, being a figurehead and all, but at least he provides me a with a day off. Also, as Blanchard mentioned in a comment on my last blog post, when the current emperor dies, December 23rd will in all likelihood become a new holiday, like Snow Day or Ice Cream Day (it’s winter). How about Ramen Day? If memory serves me right, this is the first proper 3-day weekend I’ve had in months. I always say that I appreciate my weekends more than ever, after having to work all week, but having a 3 day weekend is pretty much the equivalent of winning the lottery. Last night at work, by 7PM when I only had two classes left, I was so psyched about having a 3 day weekend that I didn’t think about the pain of teaching 4 classes back-to-back. I finished, took out the trash, got a b-day card from my staff, then headed home to being the relaxation process. I am not embarrassed to say that I spend the Friday night of my 3-day weekend sitting at home watching the Music Station Super Live 2006 concert on TV, then playing Twilight Princess for almost 3 and a half hours.

Speaking of the Super Live, let me elaborate a bit. It’s a 4-hour TV special of the normal weekly Music Station show, with more than 40 bands/artists performing live on TV. It’s a pretty fun thing to watch, since almost any popular Japanese pop song is played constantly in this country, so you’re almost always likely to at least recognize most of the songs, as crappy as they may be. There are a good number of Japanese bands I like , but I do have to admit that even more are pure trash. Now for some random hilights from the show, with some image links for those who don’t know Japanese musicians:

I have almost gotten used to SMAP, a popular boy band that has been around since approximately 1840, although I don’t especially like their music or their members. There are 5 of them, and they all do other acting and TV shows and stuff ALL THE TIME, so the probability of turning on the TV and seeing any 1 member of SMAP at any given time is approximately 40%. Anyway, I watched them on the concert and I laugh every time I see their band leader, who apparently is named Nakai Masahiro, because he is absolutely tone deaf and his singing voice is nonexistent. I have no idea how he became part of any band, because he can’t sing at all. Next, I don’t hate Dreams Come True‘s music, but the chick/vocalist looks so strange it’s distracting. Not strange in that she dresses up strange, but her face is just…butt. Sorry. (Unfortunately I couldn’t find a picture where she looked super butt). Next, The Tarako song was cute when I first saw it as a Flash game years ago, but the fact that is has been released as a very successful CD single is just disturbing. Even more disturbing was that it did well enough to be invited onto the Music Station Super Live, with the 2 little girls in tarako hats AND a giant monster-like tarako dancing behind them. There are a bunch of videos on this site. Oh, and the final thing I will mention is that Daniel Powter appeared on this show, and he is a complete d-bag. I remember hearing his song over the summer, and almost thought it was decent enough to download. I will not be doing that now.

I am still so happy at the fact that normally I would just now be finishing my lunch break at work. Thank you Emperor!

I went to the shopping in the Tokyo

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Yes, those grammar errors are on purpose; I hear that exact sentence at least 3 or 4 times a week from students when I go through the formality of asking how their weekends were. Anyways, after a fairly normal week at work, it is yet again the weekend; the oasis in the desert wasteland of having a regular job. Actually, before I get too far into the weekend reports, I should mention that the one irregularity of this past week was that one of my coworkers caught the Norovirus, which is apparently becoming more and more of a problem here in Japan, and was out of work from Monday through Friday, which included a three day stay in the hospital on an IV. I did a quick search online for the norovirus earlier in the week because I wanted to know exactly what it was; it’s some kind of stomach flu I think, and is likely to outbreak in places where there are high concentrations of people. Cruise ships, for example, seem to be having tons of norovirus outbreaks. Of course, working at an AEON school where you have students coming in sick ALL THE TIME (seriously, I don’t want you coming to class if you’re sick, even if you wear a stupid face mask), I’m not really surprised that someone caught this sickness. I think Matt, the other foreign teacher at my school, might have had a norovirus a few weeks ago also when he was really sick as well. The amazing thing is that no one else at my school caught the norovirus, since when we had the Christmas/year-end party last week we shared a lot of dishes at the Korean restaurant and I’m sure germs were passed around through that. I seem to be perfectly fine, which may very well be helped in part by the fact that I’m conscious of sleeping a lot every night (mainly out of laziness), and also because I keep a bottle of Purel sanitizing alcohol gel in my desk drawer. It doesn’t seem so OCD now, does it!?

Oh, right; weekend. After reading through my Japan guidebook randomly this week to get ideas for the upcoming Kansai trip, I started feeling more adventurous and decided that it would be worth hitting up Tokyo this weekend, something I haven’t really had any desire to do recently. Anyway, for 1910 yen, I can buy a JR Tokunai Pass (都区内パス) from my home station that will take me to and from Tokyo, and also allows for unlimited train travel within the city. Which actually is a pretty good deal as long as you’re going to 2 or 3 places in the city. Woke up insanely early for a Sunday, 10AM, then met up with Blanchard in Chiba, and off to Tokyo we were. Embarrassingly, our first stop was Akihabara, mainly because it is the closest part of Tokyo but also because it was lunch time and I wanted to go to the Oedo kaiten sushi place I used to go to whenever I visited nerd town. The cheap sushi place is in the Akihabara Department Store connected to the station, which is being demolished at the end of the year so they can build a super futuristic new department store. It was probably my last chance to eat at that sushi place, but it was busy so we decided it wasn’t worth the wait and instead got cheap ramen. It was not a bad alternative at all. By the way, if you didn’t know this, I love ramen. And miso ramen is absolutely amazing. And if it’s cheap, even better.

Other reason for Akihabara was that I needed some blank DVD+Rs, which for some reason seem much rarer in stores here. I need the +s because those are the only kind my laptop’s burner will accept, which is a pain. I figured of all places, Akihabara, the famed electronics area of Tokyo, would have mountains of DVD+Rs for my burning pleasure. I was finally able to find some at the super giant mega Yodobashi, although couldn’t really even find a 50 spindle. I asked the worker guy and finally learned why +Rs are so hard to find here. It’s an American standard! That makes sense, and I am slightly less bitter about having to hunt for these rare +Rs to amass my burned DVD collection. It might be worth either having spindles of +Rs send from the US, or maybe even buying a new DVD burner for my laptop. Either way. Oh yeah, and Akihabara has really lost whatever appeal it had a while back. The maids, weirdos, and anime otaku have really warped that place from it’s semi-warped state a few years ago. There are very few stores in the area that I even want to go to, and even less stuff I want to buy. I doubt I’ll be going back there very much; it’s just too nerdy and desolate. The super giant mega Yodobashi, however, is a good electronics store if you ever need one.

All you can eat jelly and good time!After Akihabara we headed to Shinjuku to check out some stores, mainly Takashimaya and Tokyu Hands. Not much to report, although it might be a good time to mention just how many foreigners there are in Tokyo. I think I’ve gotten used to Chiba, and definitely Goi, where you’re more likely to spot a man dressed as a giant stuffed animal than see another foreigner. So speaking of foreigners, we saw the worst group of foreigners ever while waiting in line to get into Tabasa in Harajuku for dinner, the “all-you-can eat pizza, pasta, hip-hop, goodtime, pancakes, and jelly” restaurant that is cheap and delicious. The quickest way to explain them is to use a certain American slang term for white Eminem-type clones. I don’t think I want to offend anyone, so I’m going to call them “wee gars” in this blog post. However that isn’t exactly correct since only 4 of them were white and the other was some kind of Latino. I think you get the picture though. So yeah, like 5 of them, all dressed in the same way – sweat pants, t-shirt or jersey, stupid hat cocked to the side or something angled. They didn’t speak normal English let alone Japanese, spoke really loud, and acted like they were the baddest mofos in Tokyo. We tried to figure out what their deal was and why they are in Japan, but I think the conclusion was that they’re probably military brats, since they didn’t seem to be of working/teacher let alone university student classification. They had cell phones, so they must live here, so I’m going to assume military kids who have nothing better to do but pretend they’re from “da meen streetz.” The worst was this little blond kid who needed a good throttling, but the funniest was this dopey looking kid who was wearing the surefire sign that you are a social outcast and don’t belong in Japan – the shirt that says, in Japanese “I’m looking for a Japanese girlfriend.” Come on. If you wear this shirt, girls aren’t going to be like “oh wow, he’s looking for a Japanese girlfriend. I am a girl, and Japanese. I should have sexual relations with this person right away.” Listen up mister wee gar; when the people in the restaurant, mainly the young couple, were looking at your shirt and laughing, it wasn’t because they thought you were clever.

No rims; must not be a YakFinished up the night in Shibuya, where we didn’t really do anything but walk around and look at the fancy lights and jumbotron video screens. It was getting pretty boring just walking around the streets, until there was a bit of an incident outside of Seibu. A Lincoln Navigator was parked outside of the store illegally, and was about a foot and a half into the street. A bus driver decided that he didn’t want to risk scraping this HUGE AWESOME AMERICAN SUV MACHINE so traffic on this road was pretty much at a standstill except for the occasional motorcycle. Lots of car horns were being honked, and finally the police were called. Tonight was a great lesson, or shall I say, reconfirmation, that Japanese police are absolutely useless. At first, after we started watching, two cops on foot showed up after, assumingly, someone in Seibu called them. They called fo
r backup, which brought another cop on foot and two in a squad car. The only sweet thing was that Japanese squad cars have the ability to raise their car-top sirens an extra two feet or so into the air. Other than that, they did nothing impressive. They wrote a ticket, took pictures with their digital camera, and documented the situation in a notebook. One of the cops used the megaphone and speakers built into the squad car to pretty much repeatedly say “Will the owner of a Lincoln Navigator with plate number blah blah blah please come and move your car?” After almost 45 minutes of us sitting around with a growing group of bystanders, I got bored and we went to find a vending machine. We were gone for less than 5 minutes I’d say, and by the time we came back the Navigator was gone and traffic was running normally. I really wanted to see how this situation would be resolved, but since it took so little time I’m guessing the guy showed up, apologized and bowed a lot, and they let him go. I was hoping for a yakuza shoot out! The morale of this story is that the police wasted about 45 minutes and traffic in a very busy part of Tokyo was interrupted by a mis-parked car. Why didn’t they get a tow truck!? If this were the states, a tow truck would have been there to haul the car away. There would have been no need for many cops, there would not have been a spectacle, and it wouldn’t have taken 45 minutes. Ah well, it was at least entertaining for a while. I do wish I would have seen the resolution, no matter how boring it probably was.

1 more day of the weekend; thank goodness. Then it’s a short (4 day) week because the entire country has next Saturday off for the Emperor’s Birthday. The only useful thing the emperor does!

Jerk

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I turned on the TV to the public access station just on accident, and there is the Kimitsu Gakuen Middle School English Speech Contest on right now. Does it make me a terrible person, especially as an English teacher, that I’m watching this and laughing uncontrollably? I realize that some of these speeches are actually pretty good for middle schoolers, but there is still something hilarious about it. There was a cross-eyed kid earlier talking about how he wants to be a pediatrician, and right now there is a girl who sounds like she has almost a southern accent.

OK, yeah, this is still hilarious. All the kids are using ridiculous gestures as well, which makes it almost impossible not to laugh. Oh man and the girl talking right now decided to throw in a different voice for her quotes. Bahahaha…

Another Wii-k past

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Me as a Mii(Yes, I love that pun.) This past week was pretty much the same as most weeks, with the major exception being the huge purchase I made last Saturday during my lunch break. The Nintendo Wii finally was released in Japan, and I had reserved one at the Goi Laox, a Best Buy kind of store, so I was able to get it no problem. I’m glad I did, since both Laox and the department store Ito-Yokado were completely sold out of the systems by 2PM on launch day. Games don’t seem to be in any short demand though, which is good. I haven’t purchased a video game console in a long time, let alone on launch day, so I was pretty excited about getting home that night and playing this new toy. And yes, it was as fun as expected. Even playing it at E3 last May, and seeing commercials, displays, etc for it since then, having it in my apartment and being able to play it all I want was really way more fun than I even expected. The controls, despite being wireless and everything, are more accurate than you would expect as well. I bought Wii Sports and Zelda, both of which are awesome. Blanchard bought an extra controller that came with Hajimete no Wii (Wii Play in the US), so with all those games I’ve had something to further take away from my free time. I’ve played Zelda the most, and it really is a good way to kill 2 or 3 hours of your evening at a time, even when you don’t mean to. Well, I think that’s enough of a nerdy video game rant. If you like video games, I definitely recommend getting a Wii. It’s fun and cheaper than a PS3, and there are at least good games for it right now. I might end up getting a PS3 in a few years, but for right now, there aren’t hardly any games I’d want to play for it. That and it costs more than like 500 cans of Boss coffee.

Last night my entire school’s staff had a year-end/Christmas party in Chiba, which was fun because it was a good chance to hang out with my staff outside of work. We went to this Korean restaurant named Kim-chan which was really good. There was some Korean okonomiyaki/pancake type thing full of vegetables and seafood that was served on a hot iron plate that was absolutely amazing. I don’t remember the name of it, but it was definitely worth ordering again. The restaurant wasn’t super cheap, but it was way good. After that we went to Uta-Hiroba near Chiba-Chuo station for all night karaoke, which was awesome, but we were all exhausted by like 4AM. It was a painful walk back to the station and back home in the morning after the trains were running again. I came home and slept pretty much the entire day, and it felt great. Also finally figured out what I’m doing over winter break. I have a decent amount of time off (Dec 23-25, then Dec 28-Jan 4), but am not going back to the States this time. I wanted to at least do something, though, so I’m going with Blanchard down to kansai, the western part of Japan, for a few days. I haven’t been down there for a few years so it should be really cool. Definitely want to check out Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara. Shinkansen tickets are decently priced and I think it’s less hassle than getting a plane ticket, but I can’t help feeling strange about paying so much money to go halfway down an island that is about the size of California. Ah well; it should be fun.

This blog post has been a work in process for over three hours. I obviously didn’t write for that long, but I spent most of the past few hours watching a Japanese movie called Always: 三丁目の夕日 (English title: Always Sunset on Third Street) which is set in the late 1950’s in Japan. The film does a really nice job of recreating the look of what I guess that period in time looked like, and it was nice dramatic film that just showed the life of a bunch of people. I would definitely recommend watching it. Apparently it won a bunch of Japanese Academy Awards and did pretty well in international film festivals and such. Find it at your local Tsutaya, or on the bit torrent site of your liking.

Look for the next edition of SKAT at your local bookstore!And I leave you tonight with a nice bit of Engrish, found at a store in the Soga Ario mall. And no, it’s not really some dirty book, just whatever in the world the “Sendenkaigi Award Text” is. Still, it’s funny.

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