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Blink

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I’ve been back for about a week and a half now. Things are pretty good. I’ve already gotten into a decent routine, and jetlag never got to me too bad. I didn’t really have a chance to be jetlagged, since I had to start work the Monday I got back, and I don’t think it’s possible for it to catch up to me now. Even after I had been back in the US for only a week, it felt like it had been a lot longer than that. Not in a bad way at all – just that there wasn’t much transitioning at all. I just kind of came back and everything went along smoothly. Almost too smoothly, if that’s possible.  Hard to describe. I knew I wouldn’t really have too much “reverse culture shock” but I thought it would at least be a little more weird, having been abroad for 4 years. But it’s not like I never came back home, and it’s not like I was disconnected from the world outside of Japan. If this were 50 years ago it would have been a different story (disregarding the fact that everything else would be so different it wouldn’t have been possible for this whole situation to occur) and there would have been a much higher chance of being totally reverse culture shocked. But no, I’ve kept pretty darn well connected over the past four years thanks to technology. With Facebook I’m in the loop about things my friends and family are doing, and also strangely very aware about what most people from high school have been doing too. Thanks to Bittorrent I’ve kept up to date on current American TV shows, being horribly disappointed by Lost and Heroes just as much as anyone in America.   Daily news, memes, pointless time wasting YouTube videos, and pretty much everything else also has been brought to me via internet.  There are of course small things that I’ve missed out on, but they’re so minor that it doesn’t really matter.  For the record I don’t think I knew until about a year ago who Hannah Montana was.

Someone mentioned to me a few days ago that my last blog post made it sound like I was depressed about moving back.  I didn’t really have that intention when I was writing it and I don’t think I really felt like that anyway, but looking back on it I can see why some people might think that.  Nah, things have been pretty good this whole time with the packing, moving, and getting re-settled in the US of A.  Sure I’ll miss hanging out with people in Japan but it’s not like I’ll never see anyone ever again.  I’m sure I’ll think of some kind of scheme in the near future.  OK it might just be something as boring as going on a vacation over there but who knows.  But yeah don’t be reading this and thinking I’m sitting here weeping over having to come back to the land of awesome pizza.  (I do really wish I had some good sushi though.)

I really need to get to sleep but I figured I should at least try and get some words out to form a somewhat readable blog post, since I already have WordPress open and everything.  I guess one thing I’m happy to be catching up on back in the US is books.  TV, music, and movies can mostly be “obtained” online or through more traditional methods (like paying for them) even while living abroad but books, at least to me, always seemed a bit more difficult.  Sure I could probably find PDFs or eBooks or some titles online but for me a book is still something that should be on paper, held in your hands, and read either on a couch, recliner, or toilet.  I now have a literal giant stack of books to get through, many of which are newer books that I didn’t have access to (I guess I could have spent a lot of money to get them over there) when I was in Japan.  Also I went to this used book fair over the weekend and got a whole bunch of other books to add to my stack.  I’ll be doing a lot of reading over the next few months, which is a good thing.  I think.  I mean, it’s better than doing something psycho like strangling little animals with my toes or building a scarecrow made out of tin foil.

That’s about all for now.  I’ll try to write something more coherent over the weekend.  Good night America.

I have returned.

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Well. I am sitting at LAX waiting for my flight back to St. Louis. Moved out of my apartment in Chiba on Monday night, was in a hotel for a few nights while I finished taking care of stuff and seeing people, then got on a plane Friday in the late afternoon bound for North America. The customs guy at Narita asked me if I was coming back to Japan and voided my visa and kept my Gaijin Card when I replied no. “Please make a new visa.” Hmm don’t know if I’ll ever really ever need anything other than the basic 90-day tourist visa in Japan but who knows.

So yeah I no longer live in Japan. It’s been a pretty hectic few weeks, from even before my trip to Hong Kong. I plan on writing a lot of catch-up blogs later for no one to read, but for now I figured I should at least write something to commemorate my return to the US. This is the first blog I’m writing back in the US, and I’m finally back to live rather than just a short trip for a week or two. Also, it will be the first time I’m “really” living in St. Louis since high school I think, with a couple of summer and Christmas holidays excluded. This should be a pretty interesting few weeks of getting readjusted to living in the US. I’m also going to need to get a cell phone very soon too. Possibly the iPhone?

There is actually a good deal of stuff to get caught up on here on the blog: HK, Bizzaro Y’s, Final party at the real Y’s, moving out of my apartment, and all of the other random BS stuff that comprises most of this website’s content anyway. Most of it will get done sooner or later, although if I wait too much longer it will be pushed back to super mega extreme later. I’ll try to avoid letting that happen.

Nothing’s really planned in stone right now. It’s hard to believe that I was living in Japan for almost 4 years. I definitely hadn’t planned on staying that long, but it was a great experience and I met a lot of people that I wouldn’t have ever met otherwise. It’s a weird feeling moving back to the US and leaving a lot of stuff behind in Japan. I think also since up to now, with school and whatnot, there were very natural breaks for everything. In high school and college there is always the academic calendar to kind of guide things, and after graduation it’s natural for everyone to move somewhere and start a new life. Even after I started working, things were kind of ruled by employment contracts, and since most of the people I went to Japan with arrived around the same time, we were all on more or less the same schedule.

The previous few sentences probably don’t make a lot of sense, but what I’m trying to say is even though I am technically coming back to go to grad school/university (albeit very part time) at the end of the month, my return to the US in mid-August doesn’t feel like a natural break to me. It feels in some ways that I just abandoned (left?) Japan at some random time. It also doesn’t help that it was just me leaving. Bryan and Saori, who were actually the first people I met up with in LA yesterday, left Japan about a month before me so it doesn’t feel exactly like we left at the same time. So even though I’ve known more or less for about a year that I would be moving back to the US, and have known for around 6 months when exactly I would be coming back, it feels very strange that I returned. Yes this is a lot of rambling that I’m just writing as I think, without much editing to clean it up for coherence.

So many people in Japan asked me “so when are you coming back?” as if it was guaranteed that I would come back. But I guess the more that I think about it, I will definitely be back sometime, although most likely just to visit. If I ever do end up going back to Japan to work I don’t think it would be for a few years at the earliest, plus it would have to be a pretty sweet gig for me to go. That being said, it’s not that I don’t want to go back, but to think about my future and career situation and stuff it didn’t make sense for me to stay for much longer. Japan doesn’t really feel like a foreign country to me anymore, and I was so used to living there that I was probably just as comfortable there as I will be in St. Louis. Even during my last week, it was so strange to think that I was packing up everything and jumping ship that it was almost unbelievable.

There’s a lot of “deep” stuff to think about and reflect on about the life-changing move from one side of the planet to the other. I’ll likely never really get to actually writing much more about that stuff, but I will end up complaining about America at least for a while. The grass is always greener or something overly used like that.

More to come later. It was an awesome 4 years in Japan, and I really want to thank all my friends (American, Japanese, and other) for making it such a great experience. If things weren’t so fun and interesting, I don’t think I would have possibly stayed for so long. I’ll be back to visit for sure, but look forward to hanging out with people in the US too. Let me know if you’re around anywhere and I’ll do my best to come meet up. I’m looking forward to starting a new life here in the US. And wow I just realized how Japanese that sounded.

One more moon

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This past week I passed the one-month-left mark, leaving just a matter of weeks now before I make the big leap across the pond for the who-knows-how-manyth time.  There are still a few people who have asked me about this, but yes this is a move rather than a trip.  I’m moving back to the US semi-permanently.  I don’t say “semi-” because I have any specific plans to come back to live in Japan again anytime soon, but at the same time I don’t have any plans to stay in the US for the rest of my life.  In short, I don’t have any idea what I’ll be doing even a few years from now so let’s just play it by ear and continue feeling around in the dark like I have been for the past 2.658 decades.  Things haven’t turned out too badly so far.

If moving is a pain in the butt then moving overseas is a machine gun loaded with pain bullets into the butt.  I’ve already sent a few big boxes of stuff back home via sea mail, which is the slowest and cheapest option.  Cheapest in this situation means it still costs an arm and a leg, and I probably should have actually thought about if the value of the stuff I’m sending back is worth the shipping costs.  (The answer is probably no.)  And slowest means that even the first box I sent back last month will probably arrive around the time my first-born child hits junior high school.  But again there’s not much that can be done about that.  I’ll likely send another box or two back and really figure out what will fit in my two suitcases for the plane ride(s) back.  Most of my furniture and appliances are going to be either sold on craigslist or trashed, and even that isn’t as easy as you’d think because the Japanese trash service actually charges you extra to haul off anything somewhat big.  I have to go to the convenience store to buy a special sticker, then register online to have the big stuff taken away.  It’s not really expensive though – only 370 yen for most big items or 750 for really big stuff.

I took the JLPT at the beginning of the month, level N1.  Not especially because I studied for it, but just since it’s easier to take it here than in the US.  It would be nice to have passed it but I don’t have my hopes up.  That being said, I think I did better than the previous time and passing is probably less impossible than before.  Test results aren’t being sent out until like September, and I have to have my results forwarded back to St. Louis so I really won’t know until long after I’ve forgotten about it.  My last time to take JLPT in Japan was also the best because my test site was at Chiba University, the next train stop over.  This was so much better than having to take a 1-2 hour train ride to Abiko like last December.  The week after that I also took a test you’ve probably never heard of called J-Test, which sounds stupid until you call it by its full title of the Test of Practical Japanese (実用日本語検定).  Figured that would be something to bang out before I leave the country.  It’s actually supposed to cover a wider range of levels than JLPT, and it’s pretty much the same test for everyone unlike JLPT which is sorted by level.  You can take J-Test once and get a level grade, as opposed to having to pass a test that is for a specific level.  It’s also cheaper and is offered several times a year in a bunch of locations.  I took it at some place like 10 minutes from my apartment.  I’ll know my score like right before I leave.  I don’t think I did as well as I should have, but again oh well.

I’m not really going to be having a going away party, but there will be two last Y’s parties before I leave.  Everyone should have already gotten the info.  We’ll be checking out “Bizzaro Y’s” in Shinjuku at the end of the month when NR7000 comes to visit.  Yes, there is another Y’s.  I’ve known about this place for some time and actually checked it from the outside back in 2006, but we’ve never actually set foot in it.  I’m picturing the manager there to be a Bizzaro Matsushita.  Maybe he’ll look the same but with a handlebar mustache.  Or maybe he’ll be Puerto Rican.  It will be even stranger if we run into the Bizzaro A-Team there.  You know they exist.  The following week we’ll be going back to the classic Y’s since I can’t leave without saying goodbye there.

Last week was pretty busy overall.  I’m starting the slow process of packing finally, and on top of that there was normal work, verrrrry minimal studying of Japanese for my upcoming shot at the JLPT and J-Test, and visitors from the United States.  It’s starting to finally kick in that I don’t really have that much time left here in the land of ramen vending machines.

We went to Y’s for the first time ever on a Saturday a few weeks ago, the night of the Japan vs Holland game.  I’m not especially a fan of soccer, and that doesn’t change just because it’s World Cup season.  There are a lot of people who are usually as uninterested in the sport as I am, but who have suddenly become obsessed with it since this tournament started.  This phenomenon is funny and slightly annoying in its own right, but let’s not go into that just now.  The plus side to this special Y’s event was of course that it was on a Saturday so we could get a lot more people to come, as opposed to the normal handful of attendees, an even bigger handful of maybes, and followed by a giant armful of people who say they’re going to come and then end up not making it.  We also got a big table in one of the back rooms, which wasn’t all to ourselves but still wasn’t stuck in the middle of the crowd of roaring “fans” in the normal seating area.   That was of course the drawback to the special Saturday event being for the World Cup, since everyone there was primarily there to watch the game, instead of focusing on the usual gluttony fest that is Y’s.  It was of course a good time though, and it was still Y’s, so I guess I shouldn’t complain so much.  Y’s was followed by karaoke until morning, and we had a giant room despite not having so many people.  We were also coincidentally put in the room right next to the Chiba AEON’s party group who were there for Ryan’s farewell party.  They had a lot more people than us but a smaller room, which was funny.  It was a good night despite half of our group being asleep at some point.  Also you have not known true auditory bliss until you’ve heard me sing “Bailamos.”  Of course I’m just joking: it was as horrible as you can imagine.

The following week I ended up going into the city almost every day to meet up with people, including a few IU professors who were visiting Japan with a group of students.  Last Friday was pretty cool because I went with that group on a cruise of Tokyo Bay aboard the Symphony Moderna.  We had a private room and deck on the boat that went around Tokyo Bay for about 2.5 hours or so.  The weather was pretty good and not as ridiculously humid as usual so it was a good night to go around I’d say.  The next day I met up with the infamous Johnny Ho, who was visiting Tokyo on his way back to Taiwan for summer vacation.  I hadn’t really gone around the Ueno area for a long time so it was cool to check things out there.  We found a pretty cheap kushi-katsu and oden place and then spent a really long time at Donki (Don Quixote) which is kind of like the Japanese equivalent of Wal-Mart just because it sells a lot of totally random crap and is open 24 hours a day.  But Wal-Mart doesn’t have a catchy theme song, off-duty hostesses in sweatpants, and it also doesn’t sell products as sketch as Donki sometimes has.  That being said, Donki doesn’t have rednecks or guns, so maybe it’s an even trade-off.

Sunday was the annual Konosuke BBQ at Inage Kaigan, also known as the time of the year when we all get horribly horribly sunburned.  This year’s Yoga-UV-Shangri-la attack wasn’t as bad because it was slightly cloudy and even rained very briefly, but I think most of us still managed to get tan/burned.  I put on sunblock in the morning, but it was the same bottle of sunblock I had bought like 2 years ago for this BBQ and it was getting pretty old I think.  It came out like normal lotion but when I put it on my face I kind of looked like a kabuki actor.  I tried to rub it in and I thought it had blended in pretty well, but of course when I arrived to meet up with everyone I had at least 3 people go “oh my god what happened?  Your face is so white!”  Oops!  Luckily, after standing outside in the sun for about 5 or 6 hours and sweating, the sunblock was pretty much gone and I was just red and sunburned.  Despite that minor hiccup, it was a great BBQ as usual and I had a lot of fun hanging out with a lot of the people there.  After the BBQ we headed to Chiba and did karaoke at the somewhat new Karaoke Kan which was really nice especially compared to the UtaHiro we usually go to.  Then we went to Hub until about 11PM ending out a long, loooooong day.

BBQ 2010 @ 稲毛海岸

August Return to America

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I think a lot of people have heard by now, but I’m coming back to the US in August.  No, not just for a vacation – for good!  OK not necessarily for the rest of eternity, but yes I am actually moving back to live in St. Louis for what will probably be a fairly long period of time.  Originally I was planning on coming back sometime in September or November, but it’s been pushed up to sometime in mid-August.  I’ll be working in St. Louis and slowly going back to school.  Just at night for now, but eventually going for a Master’s I guess.  That’s pretty much the main reason for the earlier than planned return, since the fall semester at the university I’m going to take classes at starts the last week of August.

It will be just short of the 4-year mark of when I moved out here after college to start working.  It’s been a long time since I’ve lived for real in the US, so while it’s hard to imagine that I’m going to be leaving Japan for good, I am starting to get excited about my return.  It’s going to be nice to actually drive places instead of doing a bicycle/walk/train combination.  It’s going to be nice to have an apartment larger than an American hotel room.  It will be great to see all the friends and family that I haven’t been able to see much over the past few years.  And it will be absolutely amazing to be able to get real American food every day.

I of course complain about things here in Japan a lot, but that’s natural.  Obviously I like living here, otherwise I wouldn’t have stayed for so long.  So yes it will be a big transition, but I think it’s about time.  Time to get more focused on my career and future, time to live a life that’s not as temporary as I sometimes see my current situation here in Japan.  I’m going to try and fit in a lot of stuff before I leave Japan, including of course seeing a lot of friends and people that have made Japan home.  I’m slowly working on my list of stuff to do/see/eat before leaving, a “bucket list” of sorts if you want to reference a terrible movie that I’ve never seen.  So far the list is fairly sparce, but it includes:

  • eat at an Iron Chef’s restaurant
  • go to a mahjong parlor
  • hit up the museums and zoo in Ueno
  • (maybe) check out the parasite museum in Tokyo
  • (maybe) visit another Asian country while I can get flights for less than $300
  • tabehodais: Top Run, FuuFuuTei, Moo Moo Paradise
    (of course not all in the same day, as impressive as that would be)
  • all nighter at the video game bar in Shibuya

 

A lot of the things on my list I’ve done before, some more than others, but I’m putting them on the list to make sure I can do it again before leaving.  So of course if you’re interested in hanging out before I leave and/or knocking off things on this list with me, let me know.  The next 3 months are going to go by a lot faster than I can even imagine, but I’m going to try to make the most of it.  America, I hope you’re ready for me to come back.

Bob Loblaw

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I don’t have anything especially in mind to write, but I figured I should write something before this blog becomes super stale and dead like so many of my friends’ blogs have *coughNR70000cough*.  Ha.

Golden Week came and went here in Japan, the week-long national spring break that seems to exist only to give airlines and other travel-related business an excuse to hike up rates times one billion since the majority of the country has vacation during the exact same few days.  I really don’t understand why they don’t get rid of Golden Week and just allow people to actually take off.  Then again, based on my limited experience, even with an extra 5 or 6 vacation days a lot of people here just wouldn’t use them.  Why not?  You have vacation days, right?  Oh, but it would be such a hassle to everyone else. Ugh.  Is it sad that GW might be a necessity here to actually get people to take a vacation?  Of course please also note that many “hard working Japanese office workers” spend half their day in pointless meetings, stamping forms, chain smoking, and writing e-mails with super polite language that makes simple communication a chore.  And then they wonder why they have to work overtime!

I was planning on taking a few days during GW off myself, but things didn’t work out as planned when the Wednesday before I got hit with some kind of nasty flu or something that knocked me out for a good 4 days almost.  I’ve had colds before but this was something much worse.  Headache, congestion, fever, chills, fatigue, loss of appetite, all that fun stuff.  Usually I’d welcome the chance to lay in bed all day watching TV but I couldn’t even enjoy it this time around.  It was pretty bad.  But I recovered.  Just in time for Golden Week to be over, too!

I don’t really watch Japanese TV anymore, save for a few shows that I just download anyway.  American TV has been pretty good recently, and I’m looking forward to some awesome season (and series) finales coming in the next few weeks.  Not looking forward to the summer drought of new episodes, but that’s to be expected.  Lost has gotten pretty disappointing and I’m honestly just hoping to get it over with.  Maybe they’ll surprise us with something awesome in the end?  House has been fairly good all season although I miss the better season-long story arcs they had in past seasons.  The Office and Family Guy are just kind of there, although still good.  Fringe probably has my vote for best show at the moment, especially with the season finale coming up that should tie a lot of stuff together and really drive home the long-term arc they’ve been working on for the past two seasons.

Let’s see, what else is there?  Work is still work, for better or worse.  I’m hoping something pops in the next few weeks/month or two.  Either way right now I’m looking at moving back to the US (for reals this time) sometime in the fall.  St. Louis here I come!  It’s hard to think about packing up everything here in Japan and moving back to the other side of the planet.  It’s been a great time, but I think that four years is a lot longer than I had originally planned to stay here.  Yeah I just realized that come September it will have been four years.  Yikes.  I have no regrets about moving to Japan after graduation, but I think it’s time to start planning for the future.  That will be much easier in the US.

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