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Browsing Posts published in November, 2008

I had all but given up on a Thanksgiving-ish meal here in Japan, since pretty much the only place you can normally eat turkey around these parts is Subway, which is pretty expensive and also annoying because if you order a footlong sub they assume you’re splitting it with a family of 10. They also don’t sell chips.

On Thursday after work I grabbed some Burger King in Funabashi after my lesson, figuring that since I can’t eat turkey I might as well eat something American. KFC is all over the place here, but as we discovered in 2006 it’s also not nearly as good as fried chicken back in the States. At some point during that day I wrote a 1-line message on mixi, the Japanese equivalent of Facebook, saying “I want to eat turkey.” My friend Yoko replied on there saying that her restaurant had turkey that day, and I should have come.

W H A A A A A A A T ! ? ! ? !

Several e-mails later on Friday, I found out that Outback Steakhouse in Makuhari, where she works, still had some turkey left and she could save an order for me if I could make it. Damn right I could make it. I headed there straight after teaching in Soga, and enjoyed a Thanksgiving dinner with Bryan and Brian. The meal was roast turkey, a sliver of cranberry sauce, masked potatoes, broccoli, unlimited bread, and 7,000 “G’Day mates!” Overall it was really good and probably the closest to a real American Thanksgiving dinner I could expect around here. Also I think Bryan made the waiter pee his pants in fear. Thanks Yoko for saving the day.

Thanksgiving dinner at アウトバックステーキハウス海浜幕張店

I think my phone makes the food look bad; it looked way good in real life.

day

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What’s Turkey Day without turkey? Well, just a regular old day here in Japan. I worked late, grabbed some Burger King in Funabashi after my lesson, and pretty much had the most un-festive Thanksgiving ever. Oh well.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, especially those who are able to eat turkey and pig out on this day like you should. I’ll be sure to eat twice as much turkey come Christmas in St. Louis.

Oh, and on a 500% completely different subject, have you ever seen a deaf person talk on a cell phone? I think I saw it for the first time today. No, I’m not talking about someone partially deaf screaming into a handset. Since a lot of Japanese cell phones have video conference-ish cameras, you can do video calls. The guy I saw outside the station was signing at his phone. At first I thought it was some crazy guy trying to hex his phone, but I’m pretty sure he was using sign language (with 1 hand?).

Land of the Rising Bear

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熊本城

I’m on my last night in Kumamoto (熊本), where I’ve been on a business trip for the past 5 days. I left Tokyo on Monday evening after working as usual in Shinjuku. It was my first time to use Haneda Airport, so I guess that was kind of cool. I was a bit surprised at how smooth the whole process was. Since it was a domestic flight, I didn’t have to worry about showing ID ever, was only going for a short time so didn’t have much luggage, and slept the entire 2 hour flight. It felt more like riding on a local train than getting on an airplane. I guess since nowadays pretty much the only time I fly is to go between Japan and the US, I was mentally preparing for a huge ordeal of ridiculous security checks and other stupid warnings against the terrible threat of bottles of water.

Arrived in Kumamoto and hopped on the last bus from the out-in-the-middle of nowhere airport to my hotel at the Kumamoto Kotsu Center (熊本交通センター). The hotel was actually pretty nice, despite being so cheap. A big part of this was due to the fact that they didn’t have any single rooms available when I checked in, so I got a triple instead. Since it was 3 twin beds instead of 1 bigger one I guess that wasn’t so great, but my room was massive, so I think it was worth it. Got up bright and early Tuesday to start teaching. This week was a similar intensive seminar to a few I’ve done in the past, but my class this time was really young compared to the ones I did before for the same organization. That was pretty sweet.

Let’s see… what else did I do of note while here? I tried Kumamoto ramen, which is supposed to be famous. It was really good, but to be honest, ramen is ramen and I think local specialties are just another one of those things Japanese people like to harp on about. I did try basashi (馬刺し), which I understand being more special because it’s harder to find in other places. Basashi is raw horse meat, which sounds gross for two reasons (raw meat and horse), but it was actually pretty good. I tried 3 different kinds: straight up raw horse meat, raw fat from some part of the horse (near the mane, maybe?), and the liver. (see pic below) All of it was a lot better than expected, but also mega expensive. Tried some different Kumamoto shochus, fried horse cutlet skewers (串カツ), and another local dish called karashi renkon (辛子レンコン), which is lotus root stuffed with mustard. It was an expensive meal, but I talked to the mother and daughter working for like 2 hours while I ate, and then with some old alcoholic dude who showed up a little bit before I left.

馬刺し

On Thursday night I went out with my students to a nabe restaurant then karaoke, which was a lot of fun. With my students all being around my age, I think it was easier for me to hang out with them and not feel like I was just entertaining a bunch of old people. One student drank so much that the next morning during class he had to leave to go puke. I don’t think I’ve ever had a student do that, haha. I’m coming back here in January to teach the second half of this seminar, and I think I’ll have the same class. Either way they all want to go out again, so that’ll be cool.

I’m staying at the Kumamoto Royal Hotel now, which is nice and cheap but not as good as the Kotsu Center Hotel. The bathroom feels like an airplane lavatory and the location is a little further away from the main drag. It’s OK though, since it’s only for 2 nights. Today I went around to do a little sightseeing after sleeping a ridiculously long time. Waking up for 4 days straight at 6AM does that to you. I got to see the Kumamoto Castle (熊本城), which is “one of the great castles of Japan.” It was pretty sweet, but it started raining in the afternoon so I had to cut my sightseeing short at that. I did some shopping in the afternoon and have been spacing out for the past few hours in a Popeye net cafe. I’ll probably crash early tonight before waking up and flying back to Tokyo in the morning. Having a party with Matt and other old co-workers at night, then back to work as usual on Monday.

This was a good trip overall but I was pretty tired almost the entire time. I didn’t get any JLPT studying done, although I naively thought I would. Oh well. I’ll upload better/more pictures when I get home – these are just from my cell phone.

Suuuuuuuushay

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回転寿司対決

If memory serves me right, on Saturday I went with Brian and his replacement at Chiba school, Andy, to the Kappa Sushi close to my apartment. It’s a kaiten-sushi, where the sushi plates go around on a conveyor belt and you grab what you want. It’s awesome because everything is only 100 yen. We decided to have a contest to see who could eat the most, and the results were horrilble for all. I think Andy ended up with about 14 plates, Brian with 21, and me with 22. Even though we each had 2 or 3 plates worth of juiceboxes, it was a painful bout.

I may have won the contest, but we were all losers that day. Haha.

Quick mindbarf

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I’ve been neglecting my blog for the past few weeks primarily because of the rhythm of work and the everyday cycle of work-sleep-wake up-repeat. I’ve said that before, I know, but it’s pretty true. As easy as things are, it’s tough when you have such a long commute in the morning and evening. Today (Monday the 3rd) was another BS Japanese national holiday, Culture Day (文化の日), so I had the day to relax. More importantly, my work week is now shortened to 4 days.

Next week, I’m heading down to Kumamoto for the first time on a business trip. I’m teaching from Tuesday to Friday, then have the weekend to goof off and be a tourist to the max. I don’t really know much about the area, except that there’s a big castle, a monument for Miyamoto Musashi, and a mountain that I realistically won’t get around to. Also people keep telling me that Kumamoto ramen and raw horse meat (basashi, 馬刺し) are the local delicacies, so I’ll definitely be eating those. I’m looking forward to that week. I’ll be staying at a hotel close to the seminar site, meaning the commute will be nothing, plus I finish at 5:10 everyday meaning I’ll have a lot more “free time” than I do with my regular schedule. I’ve never been to Kyushu, so this will be a cool trip. Plus work is paying for everything except my last 2 nights in a hotel (when I’m on my own), so you can’t beat that.

I’m coming back from Kumamoto on the 16th in the afternoon, giving me just barely enough time to head back to Chiba from Haneda, after which I’m meeting up with the old Goi crew to have a party with Matt, who’s coming back for a visit. It’s going to be a busy Sunday, followed by a rough Monday at work. But it’s just 5 regular days of work before a sweet 4-day weekend! (another BS holiday and a vacation day to use it up).

I think that’s about it for now. Next time I post we’ll probably know who the next President of the US will be. And yes that was just an obligatory reference to the election. Don’t worry, I’m not going to get political.

健康診断

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On Thursday I went in before work to a clinic near my office for a routine physical (kenkou shindan, 健康診断 in Japanese). My company arranged for everyone to get free checkups, so I figured I might as well. I had never gotten a physical here in Japan, so for some reason I was expecting a series of futuristic exams and machines similar to what you’d see on a TV show. Unfortunately, the exam ended up seeming more like something out of Welcome Back Kotter than Star Trek.

When I came in, first I told them my name, and they gave me my file. Since my company already had everyone’s reservations made, I assume they also handled any other paperwork. I had a 2-page short questionnaire with the basic medical history stuff like “have you been stomped by Godzilla in the past year,” but other than that and my name, they asked nothing. Not my birth date, not if I was feeling sick or not, nothing else. I take my little file to another counter, where they explain to me the… how do I say this medically? Oh yeah, the piss test. So instead of a plastic medical-looking cup with a locking lid like I’m used to in the States, they hand me a paper Dixie cup with my name written on it in Sharpie. I was instructed to go into the bathroom, do my biznass, and put the sample in the small closet in the toilet stall. Yeah. Instead of putting a lid on the cup and handing it to a nurse, I was instructed to put my cup into a little cabinet. Along with like 7 other peoples pee! W. T. F. So things were already getting weird.

Next I go sit in the waiting lobby and talk to one of my co-workers who was there at the same time. After a few minutes I get called into the next station of fun: the x-ray room. This room looked more like a boiler room with a giant 1930’s printing press. There was a very industrial feel to this room, complimented by the enormous, multi-section beige-colored x-ray equipment. The crazy looking old Japanese dude started speaking in horribly broken English, telling me to take off my jacket and step up to the chest x-ray machine, which looked like an old-school refrigerator. That was pretty weird. I don’t even know if that was an x-ray machine, he might have just wanted me to hug his fridge. The technician never even left the room during the x-ray. He actually was standing right behind me. I’m sure this contributed to his craziness, being blasted multiple times an hour with radiation.

After that there was some more waiting before the next round of stuff. They did my weight, height, blood pressure, hearing, and eyes, which were all pretty much routine and nothing special. After that, there was more waiting followed by “the doctor.” From my past experience with doctors offices, all the little tests and stuff were first, followed by the actual examination with a doctor, who does all the real stuff. This would also be the time they actually give you any advice, etc., and make you feel like you were really being checked up.

Here, however, the “doctor” (I don’t know if he was a doctor, I’m just assuming so) checked me with a stethoscope then… told me I was done. That was it. I literally spent 5 minutes or less with the doctor then I was sent home. I did feel kind of ripped off. They’re supposedly going to send me my results later at work. Maybe it will have a sweet picture of me hugging a fridge with a creepy glowing man behind me.

I also want to mention that this clinic had a “members club” area behind a curtained hallway. What does that mean? I have no idea. Maybe you get a real x-ray and a real doctor’s advice. And maybe even a lid for your pee cup.

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