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Browsing Posts tagged Gaijin Card

A Grande Discovery


After a half weekend, I finally had a really good day off. What’s that? A half weekend? Oh allow me to explain. Every now and again apparently, AEON schools have a fun little event they call “Sunday Open.” This means that they open up on the normally closed Sunday, so that they can interview prospective students, teach some special classes, and so on. I was the lucky teacher chosen to work this Sunday Open, so I thus lost half of my weekend. I was paid for it, and it was only 5 hours of work, but I do have to say that I might have rather just slept all that afternoon rather than waking up and going to work on my usual day off.

But that’s all behind me now. Today, you see, I ventured to the nearby station called Soga. The last time I came here was sometime at the end of September when I was still trying to find a cell phone. I had heard that Blanchard got an au phone without his actual Gaijin Card, so I figured I could maybe try the same thing. I had gone to the nearby Goi au shop to check and they had (apparently wrongfully) told me that it would be impossible to get a phone without the magic card. Anyways, I knew Soga was a fairly large junction station, so I had assumed there would be big department stores and other cell-phone-carrying shops in the area. After walking around the station and not finding anything, I walked further away in hopes of finding something. After about 45 minutes of walking, I was in Chiba, the next big city up. Ah well. A wasted morning, and a ton of walking. After that fiasco, I figured that Soga was a bust and there was nothing there except pachinko parlors.

I recently found out from one of my students that there is a major shopping mall in Soga, apparently a short (and free) bus ride away from the station. Score. I checked out the mall, called Ario, and it is pretty nice. Everything looked brand new actually. Most of the stores are clothing, so there wasn’t too much for me to actually buy, but there was also a huge Ito Yokado department store inside that was kind of cool to walk around. After Ario, I hopped onto the free shuttle to the next place, called Festival Walk, which was equally if not more impressive. An oasis of picante sauceFestival Walk had a huge arcade, Sega Arena, a movie theatre, and a really nice internet cafe. The net cafe seemed way nicer than others I have seen, with a bigger cubicle, better recliner, and nicer computer/LCD TV monitor. And not only were there free soft drinks, but there is free smoothies and soft serve ice cream. Pretty good deal, and this place also looks brand new. On top of all that, there is also free darts and billiards, making this place a good candidate for an all-nighter. I think I might try it sometime soon. This Friday is a holiday, so maybe then.

And the best discovery of the day was a place called Poca Tacos. At long last, MEXICAN FOOD! I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the place. In case you didn’t know, Mexican food in Japan is about as rare as any food can be here, so it was a welcome sight. I ate a bunch of food there, and it was really good. I had nachos, a small burrito, and a bunch of chili cheese tacos. Sounds weird, but they were pretty good. This place is only about a 10 minute train ride from Goi, which means I’ll be likely visiting Soga a lot more from now on. Please see the picture on the right to see the discovery of the weekend. And yes, the napkin does say “Taco Time.” Viva Soga.

Hot One Breath…


…is the name of the internet cafe I’m in right now. I was walking around Goi station, near where I live, and saw this huge sign with “HOT ONE BREATH” on it. This being Japan, I assumed it was some kind of sketch establishment, but instead its a small or medium sized internet cafe that is actually one of the cleanest I’ve been in here. So far so good. It also seems to be fairly cheap, so I’ll likely be coming here more until I finally get internet in my apartment.

Speaking of, life has been very good for the most part since coming to Japan. Work, except for the long hours of usually 12 or 1PM until 9PM every day Tuesday to Saturday, is actually pretty fun. One thing has kept things from being perfect, though, and that is a little magic item called the Foreign Alien Registration Card (外国人登録証明書), or Gaijin Card for short. Surprisingly, when registering for the thing the second day after moving into my apartment, I was told that it would take 3 or 4 weeks for them to process it. I’m pretty sure it didn’t take that long to get a Gaijin Card in the past. Anyway, since that is pretty much the main ID for a foreigner living here, not having it has been a bit difficult. First off, I wasn’t able to get a cell phone through DoCoMo, which was a pain in the butt because I was really planning on getting one from them, because I think they have the sweetest phone models. I was at least able to get one with au, and to be honest, I’ve been really happy with it, so no harm no foul. By the way, this is the phone I ended up getting: the Sony Ericsson W43S.

I am also unable to get internet at my apartment until I get my Gaijin Card. I suppose it makes sense, since they want to make sure that I’m a legal resident and everything, but what a pain in the butt. Even after I get my card next week and finish the application, it will take around a month for them to get internet service, since apparently no one in my building already has DSL or fiber internet. So I will likely not have a regular internet connection at my apartment until like mid November. My predecessor at AEON, who lived in my apartment before me, was able to steal wireless from someone until a few months ago, but it disappeared and he didn’t bother to apply for net since he was leaving anyway. Ah well. Internet cafes are not bad, I suppose, but going from my addiction of sitting on the internet for at least a few hours a day to having it only maybe once a week, is a big change. Luckily, my cell phone is helping me cope a bit, since I can do e-mail on it, view some webpages, and read Gmail. Gotta love Japanese technology.

Yesterday and today were my days off, and I am happy to say that I accomplished very little. I was at least able to do some shopping, including buying a nice Japanese-style (by that I mean for use on the floor) chair thing, which is exactly what I was looking for. And it only cost 1500 yen (about $13)! Shopping has to be done either before work or on my days off, since getting off at 9 or 9:30 everyday means that everywhere except for convenience stores and restaurants are closed. The other day, though, I went to the Ito-Yokado department store on my lunch break and bought Pokemon Diamond. I do have to say, it was well worth it. Definitely an awesome game. Uh…and no I am not a nerd. OK fine, shut up.

I don’t know what else I should update you all on right now. To be honest, my life has been pretty boring, since I don’t really do anything exciting. Right now, my usual routine consists of waking up around 11, watching some TV and being lazy in my apartment, then going to work from 12:45ish until 9 or 9:30ish. Work consists of planning lessons, which is pretty easy, since most materials are already made and in the Staff Room, meaning I just flip through the text book for that class, grab a folder of materials, write down some notes, and I’m good to go. I teach on average 4 or 5 lessons a day, each 50 minutes long. Saturdays are about 7 or 8 lessons, but half of them are repeats of classes I’ve already taught that week so it’s super easy. Then I teach the classes. The rest of the day I am sitting in my office/classroom, playing on my phone or doing other random goofing off. My staff is real chill, which is good because I have to hang out with them in the school all day. The school itself is half a floor of a building, with a lobby and reception area, 2 or 3 staff rooms, and about 5 classrooms. Small but efficient. After work every day, I usually grab some dinner at one of the nearby restaurants, then go home to either play DS, watch TV, or both. I sleep around 1AM every day, and then repeat this schedule. Every now and then I’ll vary it up by going to Chiba to hang out with Blanchard, but so far not very exciting.

I went to Tokyo Game Show 2 weekends ago, but I am too lazy to write up anything about it. It was sweet, but really crowded and hot. Lots of nerdy otaku guys taking pictures of booth girls. Very different atmosphere from E3. But either way, it was sweet. Played Metal Gear on PSP, saw Devil May Cry 4, Bleach on Wii, and many other random sweet games. The new Dragonball game on PS2 actually looks amazing, with pretty much any character EVER available to play, all the way from the original Dragonball up to GT. Movie characters also. We also saw Morgan Webb from G4 in the lobby/food area of TGS, and talked to her briefly. I don’t know exactly when the Wii comes out, but I really really want to buy one. I am still very confident that it is going to beat the PS3, if not based on price alone. XBox 360 is already pretty much out of the race, which I think it just hilarious.

I am going to get out of Hot One Breath now, and probably get some ramen for dinner, since aside from Family Restaurants, Goi pretty much only has ramen shops and sketch hostess and “snack” bars. It was embarrassing applying for internet, because they did a lookup of my address and there were all these sketch bars on the list, and I was like “yeah, that’s my neighborhood alright.” The live-action Detective Conan drama special is on tonight at 9, so I will probably be lame and sit at home for 3 hours watching TV.

Please enjoy your busy schedule

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Oooooh man. The above phrase was one of the notable quotes by the director of AEON East Japan, Mr. Miyake, and he was right on the money. The past few days have been nuts and mega busy. So let’s try to recap this adventure thus far.

The last few days of training were pretty hectic. We had a full lesson to prepare and demonstrate in front of 2 other trainee teachers, a trainer (who was evaluating us), and another Japanese AEON staff member. This wasn’t really that big of a deal, but a lot of people were having a cow over it. It reminded me a lot of school when you would have a big project or assignment due, and you have people going nuts over it. There are always people who study way too much just to suck up to the teacher. There are always people who pull their hair out over an assignment because they over-think it. There are always people who can’t get past step one. Then there are people like me, who cruise through assignments thanks to a combination of mutant skill and sheer laziness. How does laziness play into this? Why would I spend loads of time on something, when I can be lazy and do a decent job without stressing out over things? I’m being modest here. I can put minimal effort into things and still be awesome. I’ve learned to do things right the first time, because I’m too lazy to have to do it again.

After all the training and demo lessons were over, we received our official company lapel pins and Instructor nametags on Friday night. Thank goodness. We all went out that night, which was fun because we got to bond as a training class. With pins and nametags, we are officially teachers at AEON. Luckily, since we finished right before a three-day weekend, we got to take it easy before being dispatched to our branch schools. I slept pretty much all day on Saturday, then headed to a restaurant near the Omiya Seminar House called Bikkuri Donkey for dinner with Brian. The restaurant’s name translates to “Surprise Donkey,” which makes little to no sense in whatever language you put it in. No, they don’t serve donkey meat either, which is a shame because I wanted to add it to the in-progress “Animals Anthony has Eaten” list. They did, however, have 400-gram hamburger steaks and plates of fries with watery ketchup and mayonnaise that turned into the first meal in Japan where the food was bigger and more than I would have expected. So if you’re ever in Japan and want to eat a giant salsbury steak for super cheap, check out Bikkuri Donkey. Went down to the Ueno Zoo on Sunday with Brian and Bryan, which was sweet. Monday, again, I did absolutely nothing, which was good rest for what was to come.

Tuesday morning all us new teachers had to get up balls early to clean up the Seminar House and pack things up, etc. We eventually took cabs to Omiya station, and were hanging out there for a few hours until we actually left. One group left after an hour, and my group left an hour after that. I understand why we got up so early, but seriously, the entire time we were given free time at Omiya station, I was thinking how much nicer it would have been to get 2 hours of extra sleep. After a fun hour or longer train ride, my group met our managers at Akihabara station. From there we grabbed Sobu line to our schools. The trainers totally lied to us about most managers not speaking English, since they all completely did. My manager Emi took me to the Ichihara Goi school, which is literally across the street from the station. I also got to move into my apartment, which is amazing because it’s not only a lot bigger than I expected, but it’s only like 3 blocks away from my school. I have no idea why this wasn’t mentioned to us earlier, but apparently it’s AEON policy (I’m pretty sure it’s not just my school) to buy an incoming teacher all kinds of stuff for their apartment. In addition to the furnishings and appliances in the apartment, I also had waiting for me an entire table of towels, dishes, kitchenware, and soap, etc. Then we walked to the nearby Ito-Yokado department store and bought shampoo and stuff, then a load of groceries. It was sweet that the company paid for all these initial set-up costs, since I was pretty sure I would have to myself.

Over the first two days of work, I was talking to my departing teacher John a lot about the job, teaching the classes, and so forth. I observed his classes and then by the end of Wednesday I was teaching my first lesson. I now understand why I heard training is the worst part of the AEON experience. While the lessons and stuff are for the most part what we talked about in training, the atmosphere is absolutely different. At training, they made it seem like we would have to be practically dancing up in the front of the classroom like a zombie. Classes are much more relaxed, and I’m having a lot more fun with it. The staff I work with are awesome, which is good because despite the job being only 29.5 hours a week technically, at least for now I am working everyday from about 12:45 to 9:30PM. Once I’m more efficient at preparing lessons, I’ll be able to leave during my breaks and everything during the day, which will cut back on my in-school hours by about half. Overall though, this job is a lot of fun, and about a billion times better than the crap they fed us in training. My staff isn’t a bunch of super-excited AEON zombies, so I suppose the trainers are just an anomaly.

While I like the job, at least thus far I finish every day absolutely exhausted. You wouldn’t think this would take so much out of a person. I think I’ll get used to it within a few weeks, but for now my routine has been waking up every morning around 8 or 9, walking around the area for shopping or something, then going back to my apartment about an hour before work to shower and get dressed. I then walk the whole 3 blocks to school and start my workday. I leave work around 9:30PM usually, and grab food then go home to watch TV before passing out on my Tommy O’Brien-style floor mat. The Goi area where I live is a little country, but I still have almost anything I would normally need within a 5 or 10 minute walk, like a department store, an electronics place, a bunch of restaurants, etc. Oddly enough, there are also a lot of hostess and snack bars in the area, which makes it kind of sketch, but oh well. Oh, and did I mention that my apartment is in the sketch neighborhood? I’m pretty sure the only other places surrounding my apartment building are these sketch hooker bars.

I’ll be getting a cell phone tomorrow I think, FINALLY. The stupid Gaijin Card registration process is taking longer than expected, so I won’t have my actual card until like October 11. Without this card, I can’t sign up for a DoCoMo phone like I had planned on. AU can register a new phone without the gaijin card, so I’ll probably just get that tomorrow because I’m dying without a phone. I also don’t have internet at home yet, so I need to try and get that. I’m writing this blog in Word and will just upload it next time I have a chance. There’s not even stolen wireless here. Tokyo Game Show this weekend.

My life: garbage, anime, typhoons

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I’m always saying how random and strange life in Japan is for me, and I think today was the perfect example of this. Bear with me, as I walk through my day…

Woke up, had breakfast here at the dorm. Breakfast was a potato and green bean stew, followed by toast with chocolate sauce on it. Then I got ready to head out to school. Today, instead of class, my Jissen Nihongo (Japanese) class went on a field trip of sorts. And that trip was to the Chiba Clean Energy factory, a type of trash and recycle dump. It took a train, a bus, and a 15 minute talk in the rain to get there. Once there, a tour was led by an animated character in blue named Noa. Yes, there was a video to introduce us to the place, and in various spots in the factory you press a button and watch another video or hologram with Noa. Oh what fun, just like if I were in 1st grade in the year 2040.

On the way back from the garbage center, I stopped by Tsutaya to drop off the DVDs I rented last night (the making of the Masked Rider Blade movie, and a Kishidan DVD). I also stopped by Vive de France, a bakery, and had lunch. Lunch today was a cold hotdog with cheese and mayonnaise on it (didn’t know about the mayo til it was too late), and a calzone. Not great, not bad.

After that fun, had my one other class, which was Anime. I found out that Professor Aoyagi is apparently more famous than he leads on, and there was some point in the 90’s when he was a sort of “expert” on Japanese idols (the young girls who are everywhere, usually wearing almost nothing). As an expert on the subject, doing “research” on these young girls (sounds like Jiraiya), he was featured on TV shows and in magazines. He showed us slides as proof. Pretty interesting. Also during class I was filling out postcard contest entries so I can win a Suica Penguin pillow. More on that in a future entry.

After that, went to MotoYawata to pick up my alien registration card. I now have an official Japanese form of ID! Nice! After that, on my way to the station, ate a tai-yaki (a fish shaped waffle filled with red beans). The old lady who worked the stand kicked her husband, who was apparently sleeping on the ground, when she had to move to get to the taiyaki. Yeah kind of weird, some old man laying on the ground inside their stand.

After that, had coffee with Super Sayokon near Funabashi station. That place is a lot bigger than I expected, although I’m pretty sure I’d been to that station a few times when I first came to Japan in high school. They also have a koban (police box) that looked like a giant white pill bottle.

Now I’m home, it’s really cold outside, and apparently we are looking at another typhoon coming tonight. Man I hope it comes and cancels the train lines tomorrow, cause I really don’t want to go teach at Takanawadai High school. And I now realize that today wasn’t as weird as it seemed as I was going through it. Ah well, I’m going to post it anyway.

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