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Browsing Posts published in August, 2008

Could it be…

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We’ve had a few days recently of not-totally-balls-hot weather, and I’m getting hopeful. Is summer just about over? Seriously that would make things absolutely amazing. If I had to choose between sweltering heat and cool rain/overcast, I’d have to go with the latter. Mainly that’s because I’m tired of riding on hot, gross trains to and from work. Right now in Tokyo it’s 73 degrees F, slightly windy, and feels great outside. I know that this is mainly just because of all the rain we’ve been having, but if summer is wearing down I’m all for it.

Since I’m blogging already I might as well diverge into other random babbling. Nothing super interesting during the weeks following Obon Vacation, just working and not getting enough sleep at night due to watching TV and playing on the internet. On Saturday there was a Farewell Party for John who’s leaving Chiba after about a year. It was pretty good; a huge party of mostly people I didn’t know, but at least I commandeered a table for the few that I did. It doesn’t feel like it’s been a year since John got here. I think time is passing pretty quickly, which in a way is bad because I need to figure out exactly what I’m going to do with my life (been thinking about this a lot recently).

I know I don’t want to live in Japan forever, but the question of the moment is how long will I actually be here? And while I realize that a job isn’t the most important thing in life, in reality that’s going to be the deciding factor of where end up living. I guess if I could find a good job in the US I could move back, but I don’t know where in the US I would want to live. St. Louis would be good because my family and a lot of friends are there, but overall I feel like there’s not much else there for me. Japan/Tokyo is very comfortable right now, but I think it’s still different enough for me to have a slight sense of adventure living here. Maybe I’ve been living in too much of a dream world and need to get back to reality. Whether or not reality lies in the US I don’t know, but I need to kind of think what my next job will be. I suppose it’s time to start thinking of a career and some long-term goals, neither of which I have at the moment.

Mindfart.

2008 JLPT App

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2008日本語能力試験 受験案内 - Japanese Language Proficiency Test

I haven’t really decided (or thought too much about) whether or not I’m going to take the JLPT (日本語能力試験) this year, but I bought the application packet anyway. Instead of having a modern application system, like say, on the internet, you have to actually get this 500-yen packet at a bookstore, fill it out, and send in your complted documents via snail-mail.

Anyway, for anyone else taking it (I know a few of you are), here are some of the specifics for this year’s exam:

  • Test date: Sunday December 7, 2008
  • Application Period: Aug 1 (Fri) ~ Sep 12 (Fri) (SOON)
  • Cost: 5500 yen + 500 yen application packet = 6000 yen
  • Test results announced: Mid-Feb 2009

That only applies for people IN JAPAN. I don’t know about if you’re doing this in a different country. Here’s the official site.

If I end up taking it, I’m highly doubtful I would pass unless I seriously started studying ASAP. I passed Level 2 last year, but Level 1 (top level) is quite a jump up. Here’s the official description: The examinee has mastered grammar to a high level, knows around 2,000 Kanji and 10,000 words, and has an integrated command of the language sufficient for life in Japanese society. This level is normally reached after studying Japanese for around 900 hours.

Yeowch. 2000 kanji!? 2-kyu only required 1000! That in itself will probably bone me. I’ll try and look at the sample exams from previous years sometime soon and see if it’s even worth applying. If it’s a total loss I’ll just sell my application packet to someone else. If it seems like it might be possible I’ll give it a shot, since they only offer the test once a year (for now).

Blogs I wrote about 2007’s JLPT: Part 1 and Part 2

Bon-ed

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Summer vacation has come and gone. Well, I still have tomorrow off, but then it’s back to regular work on Monday. It will be a very painful Monday morning, I’m sure. Yes, I had a week of summer vacation, to coincide with the Japanese Obon holiday, a period when most of the country goes back to their hometowns to hang out with their dead ancestors. Or something like that. A lot of people get off for only a few days during this period (if at all), but luckily I got the full week.

The break was pretty good, and by that I mean extremely relaxing. It reminded me of my days of being semi-unemployed, which is not a bad thing at all, except for whenever I realized this was only temporary and that I’d be going back to work soon. I tried to sleep for pretty long if I didn’t have any plans, which was pretty much every day. The few days I had any scheduled plans, those were in the evening, so it didn’t really matter much if I woke up after noon every day. I woke up a few times around 10 or 11, and would just lay in bed watching TV for a few more hours, possibly falling in and out of sleep during that time. That description of my week off sounds like I have some kind of horrible disease*, but this was probably the best way I could have spent my summer vacation. Sleeping and hanging out. I watched a lot of TV of movies, played a decent amount of video games, and even got to read some actual books. OK, and comic books also.

I’ve realized recently that I am really boning myself during the work week by not sleeping enough. I’m still in the bad habit of staying up until 2 or 3AM, which doesn’t work too well when you have to get up at 7-ish every morning. I think as soon as work starts back up, I’m going to try and sleep a lot earlier every night. This way the mornings won’t be quite as painful, and I can read or play DS on the morning trains instead of desperately trying to get a few scraps of sleep here and there. Since I’m almost always standing up, this obviously doesn’t work so well. And even if I get some sleep on the trains I usually feel so drowsy at work that the entire day is just shot. I need to try and fix that and actually get my brain running at full speed all day. My life will be so much nicer once the weather gets back to liveable conditions. The heat and humidity is still terrible. Once that clears up things will be much, much easier.

1 more day of freedom.

*Laziness

Time for one of the obligatory “oh my god Japanese summer is so hot” posts. Because it is so (expletive deleted) hot! Seriously, summer here is probably one of the worst experiences a foreigner can have on this little island. I guess the heat is fairly comparable to everywhere else I’ve lived, but the humidity really does you in. On top of that, you walk a lot more here than in the US, and even trains and stations aren’t always that great on the climate control. This, of course, means that when you arrive at work in the morning, you already have the sweat and stench of someone who just ran the Boston Marathon. That is, if the Boston Marathon took place on the sun.

The humid conditions outside make commuting or even just stepping outside a chore, and with my new hour+ long journey to get to work in the morning, the first leg of my day is usually the worst. I’ve quickly adapted to the Japanese salaryman routine of wearing a short-sleeve business shirt and carrying my jacket folded over my arm/briefcase. On the train I alternate between sleeping and using a fan while looking like I could pass out at any moment. I also have gotten really good at hurriedly putting on my tie either right before my stop on the train or in the bathroom of my office lobby. There is also the constant search for a seat on the crowded trains, which I was going to write about when I realized I already have.

Mornings suck.

Thankfully my office is nice and air-conditioned, meaning once I actually get to work and cool off with my Dragonball fan, I’m good to go. It’s just the coming and going that’s a pain, because the sun and humidity turn the Tokyo streets into a wavy, brightly-lit wasteland that I try to avoid as much as possible. At night, the temperature goes down considerably (maybe a whole degree even), but the humidity remains. With any luck, summer should start transitioning into fall by mid-September, meaning life will be about 50% less painful, and I’ll just have the constant lack of sleep left to worry about.

Flesh Wound

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Is it just me, or does putting on a Band-Aid feel like one of the least-masculine things a guy can do? There are a few reasons for this. First, you’re giving in to the fact that you have a wound that won’t heal by itself. I don’t know if this is a universal man thing, but I’m sure I’m not the only man (or rough woman) who feels some kind of pride in having cuts, bruises, missing limbs, etc that are “no big deal.” You know, you get slashed on the arm with a butcher knife, everyone’s rushing around, freaking out, trying to call 911, and you just look at it, shrug, and say “eh, no problem” and continue eating your steak. With your hands. That’s right, baby. You’re a man. It will heal on its own. You don’t need no medical attention or first aid! You got this on lockdown. I think this is the main reason why Wolverine is so popular. Sure the cigar addiction, razor-sharp claws, and blue Ludwig von Koopa hair all help, but when you get down to it, he’s awesome because he can get hit in the chest by a bazooka point-blank and stand right back up to bone a super model.

Where was I? Oh yeah, putting on a band-aid feels really wussy for another reason, and that’s because the actual, physical act of putting the thing on looks totally retarded. I will admit it: I put a band-aid on tonight for the first time in a long while (years?), after ripping a gaping wound open on my arm region*. Even though I was alone in my apartment I could tell how ridiculous it must have looked. To start, you have this little box, then individually wrapped tiny plastic and wax packages that each holds a small strip of sticky fabric. Already this sounds lame, right?. Then you have to unpeel the band-aid and take off the white plastic tabs, which, thanks to static cling, will without fail, 100% of the time get stuck on your hand when you try to throw it away. Then you’re there fluttering your hand trying to get the thing off, adding more to the ridiculousness. Just think about it again: you’re putting a little sticker on your injury in hopes that it will heal you. It’s just a fancy sticker! It’s no substitute for mutant healing factor.

hey bub

Yeah, putting on a Band-Aid makes you a total woman.

*blister on my thumb

Oh no

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I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get around to writing about my recent trip to Ono City (小野市) down in Hyogo prefecture. Me and Brian went there during the 3-day weekend (July 19-21) to visit Nick. He’d made the trek up to Kanto several times after we all moved to Japan in summer 2006, so it was about time we finally headed down to check out his digs. As Nick accurately describes his small town, it is definitely “the scenic (but sedate) Japanese countryside.”

It was pretty fun getting to go down to Kansai again, since I hadn’t been there since the big trip in 06. We left that Saturday morning on the Shinkansen and landed at Shin-Osaka around noon. Met up with Nick and checked out the Umeda Sky Building near Osaka station. The journey to the building this time was much nicer, since they finished some construction since my last visit to Osaka, meaning instead of a 25-30 minute hike to get there from the station, it only took about 10 via a nice tunnel sidewalk. I was very pleased. It also felt like the Sky Building wasn’t as tall as last time, which I know is impossible, but still it was a nice view from the top of the place.
TheLeong, NR7000, Burabura at the 梅田スカイビル in 大阪
Before I forget, I should mention that Kansai was S U P E R – H O T. The entire region was like an oven baking cookies around the clock. Only instead of cookies, it was people. I didn’t think anything of it when Japanese people told me it would be hotter in the west than the east, but I believe them now! I don’t know what it was, but it felt a lot more brutal than the already painfully hot weather we have here in Chiba and Tokyo. Maybe just because we ended up walking around outside a lot more.

Anyway after grabbing some lunch at a Saint Marc’s bread viking restaurant in the Osaka Yodobashi building, we hopped back on the trains to begin the additional 1.5 hour trek to the land of Ono. We took the express train to Sannnomiya, then from there got on a bus. The bus was very hot, but comfortable enough to catch up on sleep. We arrived in Ono City in the late afternoon, the bus dropping off next to a big lake or water reservoir just a few minutes away from Nick’s place. The town isn’t exactly a farm community or the sticks, but it’s definitely a lot less urban than Tokyo. Not many tall buildings, bigger roads, more “family business” looking places, and even fewer vending machines. But it did seem nice and comfortable, and I could tell Nick liked living there. Also his enormous apartment probably helps a lot, since it’s maybe about 3 times bigger than mine area-wise, has a couch, and is also completely paid for by JET/his city’s Board of Education. I am still very jealous over his apartment, even if it is in a small town.

串揚げThat night, we went to what Nick called “the best yakiniku restaurant in Ono,” and it was a pretty accurate title. It was way good. Not Kobe beef (Kobe is in Hyogo), but the meat was very high quality, good portions, and a pretty expansive menu complete with the “secret items” that Nick ordered. I think it was some kind of innards. We went there with Nick’s Sidekick and “Yakiniku Girl” which was pretty funny. After that we all went to Nick’s for a while then did karaoke until about 4 or 5AM. We of course slept until the early afternoon on Sunday, followed by a Sushi-ro for lunch where we met the elusive Heian. That night we got kushiage for dinner, which my first time to ever try it. It was good, but something about eating an entire meal of fried food makes you feel terrible the next day. I’m no Patrick Ellison, that’s for sure.
神戸タワー
On Monday we checked out Kobe city, seeing the famous Kobe Tower (from across the little bay) and hitting up an arcade. We bought some omiyage and then headed back to Tokyo. It was a short trip, but a very fun reunion for the 伝説の三人.

THANK YOU NICK-SENSEI
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