Friday, December 31, 2010

Korea

New Years is approaching here in Korea and I will be here to welcome the new year. A lot has happened in the past year. My life has changed. It's always nice to look back and reflect on everything that has happened as well as start a new, with a fresh year ahead.
Next week I will have my feet on Japanese soil and will inform all of you on my short stay here in Korea.


Thursday, December 30, 2010

On the KTX

Down to the Southern part of Korea. But stuck standing nearly the whole way. It's good and bad. My legs might be sore if I can't find a seat.

Friday, December 17, 2010

What happen to the sand in my hourglass?

While singing along to the 'Little Mermaid' soundtrack at lunch, amongst my JHS students (3rd year), I came to a gross realization. I'm getting old. Apart form myself and the teacher, no one in that classroom was a human when that film was released. Little Mermaid came out in 1989. None of the kids were walking, when my jaw dropped watching Woody meet Buzz. When they finally could walk, they didn't know Will Smith saved the world from aliens. Time flies.

The Golden Age of Animation

Highlight of today was one of my students asking me 'Do you know Tom and Jerry? I watch it on DVD.' It was all in Japanese but regardless touches my heart that some kids here have an appreciation for 'The Golden Age of Animation.' Japan has made huge strides in Animation. The past ten years have been a little lack luster. Regardless, their contribution to the medium deserves tremendous respect.



It's interesting to point out, that character designs like Asto Boy are copies of characters seen in American animation or design in the late 40's. Over the years, anime evolved into its own style. Surprisingly, American children growing up in the 80's and 90's became influenced by Anime and produced shows like Power Puff Girls which are direct attribution back to anime, which is also a attribution to American cartoon characters sixty some odd years ago.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Gymnastics.

Watching the news... It's talking about how gymnastics is important to physical education in Japan. I wish it wasn't considered 'gay' in American while I was growing up. I would have preferred to be a ninja over a dumb jock. Sadly, I was neither and ended up an 'art fag'.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Forgotten Words

The other day, I wanted to teach my students to say 'davenport' instead of 'couch' or 'sofa' but the Japanese English teacher wouldn't let me. That was a total bummer.
I think I spent too much time around old people as a child.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Whistling

Work was slow the other day. I had some downtime but didn't use it wisely. Instead I was starring around the teacher's room. Feeling like I had nothing better to do, I started to whistle. After about a second of that, my Japanese English teacher said something really funny. 'Don't do that, you will call snakes here'. She laughed, then told me that whistling indoors is considered rude. It's nice when the Japanese get straight to the point with cultural stuff. Usually they take the long way and you won't find out you've done something wrong until weeks later.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

TWJ - EP 41 - MT. FUJI - part 01

Recessive Genes.

Yesterday, a student saw my eyes up close for the first time. It's been nearly nine months. This wouldn't seem like anything important if it weren't for the fact, my eyes are blue in a sea of brown. They asked the teacher 'Why are his eyes blue'. The teacher responded with an appropriate answer; 'there are different colors of eyes found throughout the world and Jerry is just one of them'. I have to remember that, to some children, my eyes might have been the first set of blue they have ever seen. That's such a foreign concept to me.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Today I raised my hand like Spock and gave some children, 'The Vulcan Salute'. A girl looked at me puzzled and said in Japanese 'It looks like alien'. I then said to her in English, 'Yes it is'. She backed away, somewhat terrified glancing at the other students nearby. I leaned forward and said, 'Don't worry, it's the Vulcans; they're peaceful'.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Winter is around the corner

At least, that is how most people feel. It still feels like fall to me. The leaves just fell off all the trees but the mercury hasn't dropped. Back home, I've heard stories of snow. While here, I am stuck with sunny skies and temperatures settling somewhere in the mid 50s(f). It really makes me wish this area were more like Hokkaido. For now, I'll have to put up with it. Sunshine in the winter doesn't feel right.

Within the next twenty days, give or take, I'll board a plane bound for Korea. I'm off to visit my sister for Christmas. I'm really looking forward to it as well. Something about travel really becomes addicting and seeing to places, is always exciting. There is one thing that is concerning to me, the current state of the Koreas. Both seem to be locked in war games. It would be really nice if the North weren't so retarded. As long as they don't go toe to toe, I'll be happy.

The other day, I finally began the process of capturing my footage from my time spent on Mt. Fuji. One part of it should be finished sometime this week, with other parts soon to follow. I imagine by the time all of it is complete, I will be Korea bound. Crazy to think that.

Well, thats all for now. Felt like I should get a quick update in.



Sunday, December 5, 2010

TWJ - BTS 33 - Working hard or Hardly working?


Maybe I will post pictures of some of my drawings later on...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

J-Pop is terrible

Most of it anyway. Although, I think Pop as a whole, is terrible. It died somewhere in the 80's. Regardless, J-pop is completely uninspiring. Before I came to Japan, I saw it as something funny and unique to the country, nothing that I thought would annoy me. Since living here, my opinion has changed drastically and I can hardly tolerate it.
It's became a nuisance to my ears and eyes. Everywhere I turn, there is some stupid J-Pop group starring back at me. It's either effeminate men trying to get me to drink light beer or wear eye liner. To disgustingly cute females who have the IQ of Arnie from 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape?'.


You think I'm kidding don't you?


I've came to the conclusion that these 'artists' exist for the same corporate reasons pop stars exist back in the US. To make money beyond music. The companies must own the rights to these people because their faces are on every stupid item you could buy.

I guess maybe my biggest complaint is the lack of poppiness and catchiness some of these bands have. Most notably the girl groups. They all have the same limited vocal range, in the same key, no harmonies, rarely any solos, duets, etc... Multiple parts hardly exist either. It's hard for me to listen to.


The entire group reminds me of 'the guitar army' from Idiocracy.


Such a stupid concept.



Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pre-500 Subscribers Thank You AND Sexy Santa Clause?


Christmas might be interpreted a little differently here in Japan.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Hit by a BUS

The other day, I had the unfortunate position to be a teacher (who cares a lot about their students) and see one of their students sprawled out on the concrete. They were hit by a bus. I was about five minutes to late to witness the incident. How the student was hit by the bus, was broken down rather quickly in the course of a few hours. A flier was distributed to all the schools in the area. I broke it down in my head and was fairly close to how the situation occurred. I was there, I saw the damage on the bus, and the student on the ground.

The student was traveling with traffic. They decided to cross the street but not at an intersection. This is fairly common in Japan. The problem was their view was obstructed by a large truck. As they went into oncoming traffic, a LARGE BUS came into view and they were stuck. No time for either to react.

I came along just a few minutes after the incident. I felt sick to my stomach and couldn't stay for long. I asked one of my students who it was and they told me. The sad thing is, I have the hardest time trying to remember everyone I work with. I know most people by their face only. I can't read everyone's name because it's all Kanji and kanji can differ considerably with the Kanji it follows.

Luckily the student didn't die. They wound up with a broken back. Which is going to take forever to recover from. I know from personal experience that hospital life is NOT FUN (Although I do enjoy hospital food). I'll see if there is anything I can do to get the student in higher spirits.

-jerry

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Trying to maintain

It's rough honestly. There is a lot I'm trying to do all at once. Who thought that a hobby might feel like a chore? It's not really but it bites into my time. Not that bad. I enjoy it. The problem is that I have a hard time maintaining. I probably should snag a calendar and try and stick to a production schedule.

I've been trying to put out a video once a week. At the same time. Consistency is what people care about from time to time. You can produce good content but if it's not at 'X' time, it becomes hard to follow. I need to get back onto the three posts a week and at least one video a week AT THE SAME TIME!

Trust me, I SWEAR I will finish the Fuji stuff. Man. It's been so long. It's going to be like half a year since I climbed... Not as bad as over two years since I've been to Taiwan. Seriously dude.

So much content.

-Jerry

Music Appreciation

Today, a girl in one of my classes asked me if I liked Hannah Montana, Jona's Brothers, or Selina Gomez. She's about ten so I was kind and said 'I'm sorry, but I don't.' I got a stare from a pre-teen that could kill four lions and a herd of wildebeests. About five minutes later, music came blaring over the PA system for lunch. I can only describe it as a sweet taste of the 50's. As Elvis was rocking through the speakers, I asked 'Do you like this?'. With a toss of her head and a sharp she quipped 'no'. My eyes widened 'That's the King we're talking about!' I was about to go into a rant about modern music then realized it would fall on deaf ears. Not everyone speaks English in these parts.

-Jerry

Monday, November 8, 2010

TWJ - BTS 30 - Irrigation Matters in Japan

Adapting...

This has been something I have thought about for the longest time. Adapting to American life, maybe might be much easier for a Japanese person in American than an American in Japan. Or maybe that is just the perception.

Adapting to life overseas is somewhat of a complicated one. I went in a handful of times for interviews, to jobs that might lead to Japan. The interviewers always warned potential employees about the risk of the 'honeymoon phase'. This phase, as they classified it as 'Everything is awesome for three months, then soon after; turns sour'. For myself, I am far beyond the honey moon phase.

I already know the sour bits of Japanese culture that rubs me raw. In all honesty I could write a book about it. There is so much within this society that I think needs questioning. And before you go all 'holy than thou' on me... There is a ton about American culture, I could express my grievances with. Trust me.

I won't get into it at the moment. Before I do, please consider to read the following article.


He expresses some of what I am feeling. Although I have been here for only a short time. The author has spent a much longer time in the country.

Given time, I might express the same; if not similar.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Most Controversial Book in Japan

What happens when you take five metrosexuals, toss them together, and form a music group? If you're in Japan, you get possibly one of the most famous bands of the past decade. With music about as deep as a puddle, it's no surprise women would tear of their panties to hop in bed with one of these... Dudes?
All cynicism aside they did something, a bit important for Japan. 'The Land of the Rising Sun' has been suffering a bit over the past few years in terms of National Pride. The band, 'Arashi' was hired to help out. They helped produce a book about the country they love to call home. The Japanese government then distributed this book to schools throughout the nation. With schools getting two copies each.

Well, this became a problem with the fanatic, over obsessed, and most likely female population. Schools throughout Japan have seen a large amount of theft of these books. Resulting in the placement of the books, not in the library but the teacher's room. At nearly all the schools I work at, either one or both is in the teacher's room. It makes me bring up a few questions.

-Why didn't the publisher create distribution for public consumption?
-Why are people so stupid, so obsessed; with celebrity?

Maybe you can call me a mood killer but I don't see why certain people are exhausted to a 'Godlike' status by fanatics. It could be how I was raised or the career path I took or maybe something else thats burned inside of me.

How about I ask you this... How would you react shaking hands with the man who once had a chainsaw placed on it or stand side by side, taking a leakin' in a urinal with a man you looked up to growing up with as a kid... Or walking into a stall of another hero who dropped 'the kids off at the pool'?

The line of work I studied was animation. Going throughout college, I had many teachers who worked in many of my favorite films and TV shows. At first, you get star struck, then after a short period of time; you realize they're flesh and blood. Have one of your heros essentially, be your boss. Sure, it's awesome but you have to keep it professional.

Don't get me wrong, when 'Maiden' took the stage near Seattle, I gave out a few 'woos'. But I wouldn't dare bother waiting 4 hours in line to get a t=shirt autographed or a picture taken with them. They need sleep and probably get bored answering stupid questions. If you seriously want to be a respectable fan, give them all their face and leave em' alone.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween EVE

It's a dreary rainy October 30th. Today I was hoping it'd be at least clear. There were some pick up shots I wanted to take for an episode I'm currently working on. But the weather is getting the best of me. I'm also a little uninspired so that makes everything more difficult. There were days like this in summer. Need a shot of caffeine, that always help.

What I'd like to write about is how halloween is celebrated in Japan. Surprisingly it is but not to the magnitude as in America. In the States, people spend outrageous amounts of money on costumes and decorations. There are activities leading up beforehand like pumpkin hunting, carving, corn mazes, haunted houses, ghost hunts, etc... Halloween in America might be on October 31st but it occupies the whole month of October.

In Japan, it's present but it seems to be a holiday more for adults. My only guess for this is Japanese who have spent time abroad in the US or Canada. There are costume parties and everything in between but you have to be in a larger city to get the full effect.

Door to door 'trick or treating' isn't found. Kind of sad.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Trying to keep up

Since having a flood of new subscribers I find it difficult to keep up with the constant updates. More people means a little more pressure. Some people might not view it like that but I do.

When you obtain more followers, you have a little more motivation to progress. Attempting to one up yourself each time becomes more vital. The last video I produced was probably better than one I did before. The next video, hopefully should be at least the same or better than the last I made.

Sure it's a hobby but I take my hobby seriously.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Kind words from Gimmeaflakeman

Around mid August, I was contacted by a prolific Youtuber who covers topics relating to Japan. He wanted to run the episode I did on the Japanese tax system. At first it was going to be released around the end of August but it was lost, then found! And now here it is!



Victor or Gimmeaflakeman posted this around a week ago. Since then I have had a flood of subscribers and traffic to my youtube channel. Thanks to Victor and everyone for checking my stuff out.

TWJ - BTS 26 - Japanese Roadwork

Monday, October 25, 2010

My Rural Farmer Accent… Sort of.

At least thats what I feel like calling it. You see, throughout Japan different regions have different dialects of Japanese or different accents. Since Tokyo is the hub, it would be considered the most standard form of Japanese. Compare it to 'American Standard'. That accent is what most people speak in America. It's how most news casters speak. More or less, it's the standard. Japan is the same but also just like America, there are different accents and dialects throughout Japan.

It's a difficult concept to explain to anyone who doesn't speak Japanese so I will attempt my best. I will use one of the most well known dialects 'Osaka-ben' which comes from, Kansai region.

Essentially what occurs is parts of words or actually word uses are changed completely. To relate this anywhere to English a word like American English verse British English.

American British
=======================
French Fries Chips
Chips Crisps
Vest Waistcoat
Tank top Vest
Ice sickle Ice lolly

Or to compare it to something to American English, you can use Ebonics as an example. It's much more of dialect than anything else. Pronunciation and abbreviation of words is completely more common. This to me, seems to more closely resemble what happens in Japan.

So for example the word 'can' is 'deki' in Japanese. If you were to say 'can't', you would tag 'nai' at the end of it, creating 'dekinai'. In Osaka they use 'hen' instead. Your word would now be 'dekihen' or 'can't in Osaka-ben. This sounds simple but becomes problematic because 'hen' in normal Japanese generally means 'weird'. In Osaka, you would be ok to say that but if you said it outside of the Kansai region, you're saying 'can crazy' or maybe some other word. There are a lot of other words that modify or change words in Osaka ben but I won't get into it because I can hardly understand it.

Where the concept of regional dialects applies to me is where I live, Tochigi. And just like other areas of Japan, it also has a dialect known as 'Tochigi-ben'. A lot of Japanese see it as a dialect farmers use. Mainly because this is a farmer area. Though it's dying off a little, it's still used within Tochigi. I might unknowingly learn a word form a Japanese person in this region which is Tochigi-ben. With all honesty, I have learned just a little Tochigi-ben and have caught myself using it when trying to talk with my students. This might not seem overly interesting to someone who doesn't speak Japanese but try and imagine meeting a Japanese who speaks English with a Southern Drawl. That's more or less how I try and view it.


Wouldn't you love to hear and Asian speak like Shop Dog Sam?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

I want a bike

Last Saturday I met up with a bunch of locals who seriously enjoy their bikes. What they prefer to ride are 'fixed gear' bikes. What this means, is that you are constantly peddling. You also break with your legs, not a handbreak. Though I don't like this concept entirely, I do like the designs they create and the idea of a single speed bicycle.

For the past few months I have been on the fence about getting a car. The advantage it would have, is getting around in horrible conditions. If it's really cold outside, riding a bike would be troublesome. This disadvantage is all the money I would have to put into a car. Even though I just recently obtained my license, having a car would be very troublesome.

At the event I was at this past weekend, we rode out to a beautiful park. This place was around 20km from my house. I rode there on my cheesy little grandma bike. If I had been on a quicker bike this wouldn't have been an issue. Regardless, I was at the park for over three hours. Then came the ride back, which actually was a race. Some of the Japanese that went to this event, drove there and pulled their bikes from out of their cars. When we were to leave, everyone was to meet back in Otawara at the local bike shop. The people in cars were also racing.

It was extremely surprising to see, that; on a bike not meant for speed, I was able to cover the same distance as a car, in an equal amount of time. Speeds for cars on local roads top out at 50km/hr. There are a ridiculous amount of unnecessary stop lights. That are either too short or to long and don't allow you your chance to pass through them in enough time (a topic I will cover later).

Basically driving a car can be a huge hassle and a drag. This occasion isn't the first time I have arrived at a destination sooner than a person in a car. Essentially, cars have the speed advantage only when its super country bumkin roads or night time. Aside from that, they don't have an upper hand.

If I were to purchase a nice fast bicycle (to get around town over my slow bike), I could ride it at around 30-40km/hr. That is the same speed that most traffic moves around here. I would also have the advantage of not paying taxes on it, money for gas, and shaken (routine maintenance required by the government). Essentially, the cost of a car would be continual and never end. A bicycle would still have costs but since maintenance on a bike is much cheaper, it would be less noticeable.

For me to really debate if I want a car or not, should be based much more in line with 'how long do I want to stay here?' I can can get a cheap car, put money into it, and use it but if I'm here for a short time, it's a waste of money. With a bike, I can at least ship it stateside.

I'll keep you posted on the bicycle drama later.

A bunch of Japanese guys playing a fun game on their bikes. At first it started out small then eventually there were around forty people playing.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

JUBILATION (written on 10/12/10)

I write this to you on the same day I completed one of the most annoying and backwards tests, I have ever taken. At 3pm this afternoon I obtained my Japanese drivers license. It was my fifth try at the test.

On the first occasion, I didn't expect to pass. I didn't care and I failed. Its more or less expected. When it came to the second try, I put a little more effort into it. I knew there was a high probability of failing it. By the third time, I became overly frustrated, yet I still failed.

The fourth time I was nearly perfect but the instructors gave me a score or 35/100. On the fifth, I felt like a washed up sports athlete. Tired and dejected. I walked the course like I was ready to sacrifice a soul to some Aztec god. I was angry. When the test commenced, I made a handful of mistakes from the beginning. It didn't help that the person infront of me set a bad precedent for what was to come. She did a terrible job at driving. This only made me more nervous because the driving instructor seemed to slowly become more annoyed.

When it was finally my turn to take the wheel, I used as much polite Japanese as possible. I said all the right phrases, I acted liked this was super serious (which I did before), and put as much effort into it as possible (run on sentence, I don't care). It took around five minutes to complete the course but what awaited next was mind numbing.

The next to hours were terrible on the heart. When I finally heard my name called for passing, I flipped out. This was far more exciting that obtaining my license when I was sixteen in the States. This was a huge challenge. It was like a test on the soul and the mind.

Though the test is done on nothing more than a glorified parking lot, I can only compare it to high diving or any other sport that takes technique and difficulty into account. When I took my test back in the USA, there were a lot of things that were difficult. First, there was live traffic. I never knew when a pedestrian or car might be a potential obstacle. Next was the parallel parking. It's highly practical and displays a huge amount of control over ones car. Lastly, though I don't know if its done in other States but backing around a corner. I don't know at all, or if ever this will be used... But backing around a corner and staying within one foot of the curb is highly essential in Washington state. When I was sixteen, I passed with an 83. I was tired beyond comprehension but the person who tested me based it upon the skills at task. This is where it differs dramatically from Japanese standards.

Japanese standards are based feel like they are based around a 'Kendo Competition'. Not only am I judged by my ability to drive but I am also judged by how much spirit I have. If you are rude to the instructors, you'll fail. If you don't look like you are serious about it, you'll fail. There has to be passion inside of you. Why it's like a Kendo competition is for this whole 'spirit' element. When two opponents in a kendo match hit each other at the same time, the one that shows like they care the most, gets the points. I might have got my license this last time, simply because I showed I had more care about getting it than everyone else.

If you decide to live here, I would suggest not to get a car. That is unless you seriously have to.
That's all for now.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Value of an 'A' in Japan

Considering I have spent the past six months within the education system in Japan, I have made a lot of observations. If I was asked by the school board, "what would you change?" I would have an answer. The first would be the grading system.

If you have been outside of school in America for a long time or are unfamiliar with it, let me give you a quick refresher.

100-90 = A Outstanding
89-80 = B Above Average
79-70 = C Average
69-60 = D Below average
59 below = F Failed

Some school systems have 65 and below as an F but generally, this fits the system for most American school systems.

In Japan it's different, and I don't understand it. I have graded countless papers since being here. There have many, that I would consider in either the 'D' or 'F' range. However, the teacher tells me to grade these students as either a C or a B. The grading system here is different. It's either A, B, or C, there is no D or F.

It would sound ok but this system allows a lot more weight on an A. I saw a student who had 100/200 on a paper. In the US, this is 50% and is an obvious F. Surprisingly over here, it's an A. I have seriously wanted to question the grading system in Japan. It doesn't offer progress or track an honest benchmark. It also sets kids up for dealing with failure at a catastrophic level. What happens when they can't pass their high school entrance exams? Do they throw themselves off an overpass and onto a passing train? Sadly, some do.

For now, there isn't much I can do about it. Questioning or offering constructive criticism on the matter is bad here. Trust me, there is a lot I would change. For now, all I can do is observe and participate.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

TWJ - BTS 22 - Crazy Japanese Spiders

Understanding Broken English via Death Metal

When I was in my sophomore year in High School, I was exposed to a glorious form of music. Death Metal. For over the past ten years, there always is a band on my 'top ten playlist'. Things haven't changed. Something about the music is soothing.

Of course, when I first started listening to death metal, something about it was hard to understand; the lyrics. Most vocalists sound as if they swallowed a snake and are nearly incomprehensible. At first, I read linear notes, to understand what they're saying. Then after a while, I able to understand their annunciation and intonation in their speech. I could listen to about any band at the drop of the hat and translate it for you into understandable English.


I would have never thought that years and years of listening to death metal has helped me understanding broken English. Though I have spent a lot of time around immigrants to America, it seems like I've had an upper hand understanding them, compared to most 'Native Speakers'. It's pretty rad.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Finding Gold


About 10km from my house is an 'International Liquor Store'. I have rode my bike the long distance for the gold thats inside. Surprisingly, it carries quite a bit of non-alcoholic items. Which are the bigger draw.

Inside this store, I have found tortillas, chili, peppers, pretzels, and all the little goodies back home. Each time I go, there is something new I find. Considering the store is fairly small, it carries quite the surprising selection of food. Most of which, isn't found at the international super market.
The prices are relatively affordable as well. I was shocked to find a quart of Umpua ice cream there the other day. It ran me about ¥700, which is maybe $2 more than what I would find it for in the states...

But seriously, UMPQUA? Thats a regional treat that people in the NW only seem to experience. When I first went to the store, I was shocked to find Tim's potato chips. Again, this is another treat that only seems to be a regional delight. If I came across Tillamook cheese, I would be a very very happy man. Sadly, it's not available at the store.

As you can see, the prices on the chips aren't wallet breaking. Its more than America but the prices aren't unnecessarily high. I have been to some other stores that sell the same or similar goods but generally at a much high price.

Hopefully I will keep continuing to find all of these goodies on a more consistant bases.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Worthless

Deodorant in Japan has to be the saddest and most worthless item I have used here. It might be a bit complicated to explain but from what I have observed, the Japanese don't sweat too much. Maybe its an Asian thing, I don't know. Considering, I'm from a different ethnic background, it shouldn't be a surprise that deodorant isn't used much here.

The most common deodorant I can find is spray on. Totally worthless. This stuff lasts about an hour or two at best. I generally take a shower before I go to sleep. Then I take a hit of deodorant. When I wake up in the morning, its worn off. Regardless if I sweat or not. And sometimes B.O. is seeping out my pits. Its really disheartening.

Its hard to find any roll on but I got word from some friends that it's possible to find. Of course, I don't know how useful it will be.

Luckily the weather is getting cooler. Fall is approaching and I will sweat less. Problem is, I'm adapting to this weather every time it gets cooler. This means I still sweat. If you want to be a kind soul, please send me some deodorant from America. I would greatly appreciate it. Something like 'Tim's' or 'Arm and Hammer'. I'm not so much a fan of deodorant high in aluminum and other bizarre chemicals.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sorry

It looks like I forgot to write this past Saturday. Don't worry, I'm currently in the process of updating my back log. I will have some time off this week. Some of it will be spent updating this blog.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Just ran out.

I noticed that early this morning I hit rock bottom on all of the posts I had back logged. I would say that after this month long experiment that the concept is a highly successful one. Now I will try and write up some more, on a much more consistant basis. Look forward to the following entries in the near future.

FOOD
-How the Japanese abstain from anything remotely spicey
-Mixing American food with Japanese food

SCHOOL
-Why do the Japanese give A,B, and C's but no D's and F's? Plus, why is 100/200 considered an A?
-The speech contest
-What would I do if I ran the English program at school?

RACISM
-How the Japanese might not see something as racist or xenophobic when it actually is

DRIVING
-There are way to many stoplights in this country.

WOMEN
-Why do Japanese women flush multiple times when urinating?

DIGESTIVE SYSTEM
-Why am I always constipated or have diarrhea?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sunday School Songs

My time spent at elementary schools involves a lot of singing in the class room. A lot! Most of the songs are silly songs that introduce the students to new concepts. Things like 'How to ask questions' or 'how they are feelings' while others might introduce them to the alphabet or counting. All of these songs help break up the lesson and keep it moving quickly. Kids have a short attention span so having these helps them burn off energy and keep them engaged in the lesson. On a few occasions some songs have popped up I learned back in my youth during Sunday school.

Two of the most notable are 'deep and wide' and 'I've got the joy joy joy'. Of course, deep and wide doesn't mention anything anything related to Christianity. Now that I think about it… What is that song about? A fountain of extraordinary proportions? The other song, however does reference Christianity. Of course, the Japanese do what other people do when there is a Christian song in the west; remove anything related to Jesus. Its difficult for me not because I'm offended but because I know the missing versus to the song and have to catch myself before I belt out

And if the Devil doesn't like it
He can sit on a tack!
Ouch!
Sit on a tack!
Ouch!
Sit on a tack!
And if the Devil doesn't like it
He can sit on a tack!
Ouch!
Sit on a tack to stay!

I always found that section of the song a bit little mean. Yeah its the devil but no one likes to sit on a tack. That hurts! Maybe a song I should introduce to the children to help them with spelling is; I'm a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N. Of course, that might not go over well with the school bored. Hahah.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

What it's like to be a minority…

It's a hard concept to contemplate. If you live within the United States and your skin is white, its hard to comprehend. Its a rough subject that you can never understand unless you have been unjustly subjected to its wrath. Back home, I never liked checking the 'white box' on job applications or government paper work. Isn't the 'human' race good enough. And personally, I have always found the concept of tracking race in some stupid government survey justification for further racism, discrimination, and an appeal to some political party. I feel that the government keeps problems brewing within the US, only to justify their actions. Continually hold specific groups down, create class wars, only for their aims to stay in power. Call me crazy but that's houw I see it.

A few weeks back I spent some of my free time hanging out with my friend Sara. We went for a bike ride throughout the city I currently reside in. More or less we sat on a park bench… Afterwards she went back to her place while I was to meet up with a few Japanese gals around an hour later. Outside of Sara's place, a farmer was harvesting rice. He was on a small combine. I felt like it was my opportunity to take some video. Inside my left pocket sat my digital camera. I shot video for around fifteen seconds. After that period I felt like packing up and leaving. I checked the traffic on the side of the road. In the distance I saw a police car. Within the pit of my stomach I thought and felt a terrible feeling.

It seemed as though something was going to happen with these. The amount of irrational suspicion probably was running though these police. Actually, it has seemed to infect most everyone with a badge. Someone is filming something and that can be grounds for some silly threat. Don't tourists normally film things they find fascinating or interesting? Don't photographers take pictures of eye popping mater. Never mind that. It's a white guy in the middle of Japan. Let's bust him.

As I pulled up to a stop light and an old police office (in his 50's) came out of the cop car. He asked me in Japanese what country I came from. Since my Japanese isn't too great, I just pulled out my ID instead (something I would NEVER do in the US). If I had a better handle on the Japanese language, I would have badgered him from the moment he opened the car door. I would have asked him 'why does it matter?' (I don't care if I am a guest in this country, there is no reason for authority to act this way). No matter what this dude thinks, he works for me. Even though I am a foreigner, I pay taxes.

At the time, maybe it didn't help that I was wearing a Chinese Commie hat my sister gave me. Regardless, just because my skin is a different color….. It didn't justify his actions. Racial profiling is never justified. EVER.

He walked around my bike, trying to see if it was stolen. In my broken Japanese, I explained to him I purchased it at a recycle facility. It seemed as though he felt like it was 'stolen' when it was honestly purchased. At that time… THANK GOD, his partner, a Japanese man in his late 20's or early 30's appeared. This man knew I was no concern. He spoke something in Japanese, something I didn't understand to the older officer. At that point, the older man began to turn away.

This is when the younger officer apologized to me. More or less, he apologized for wasting my time. He knew I was just some silly foreigner enjoying a bike ride. He knew my bike wasn't stolen. He also didn't harbor any irrational xenophobia from someone who was born on another continent.

Back in the US, there is a lot of that. I have talked with my friends who are either black or hispanic. They know what's up cause nobody really seems to mind the Asians in America. I've heard stories ranging from racist co-workers to being followed through a store to having five cop cars show up to a missing tail light.

Accusations always seem to run wild. Can't anyone think rationally anymore?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cooking American Dishes

A few weeks back I was invited to a BBQ at a friends house. Beforehand I felt like I should bring a dish. I ended up settling on an American one. Something I haven't had in a while. Macaroni salad. I found the ingredients at the store, of course at a much more expensive price. I was able to turn out a rad dish of macaroni salad for around ¥500. If I were to make it just for myself, I could live off of it for a few days. Something I am considering.

Then a day or two pasted. A friend gave me a bunch of potatoes. What does this mean? Potato salad. I turned out another killer dish. Between the period of potato salad and macaroni salad, I made another gnarly dish. An American Classic, Macaroni and cheese. That hit the spot. Its been so long since I've had it.

Since arriving in Japan, its difficult to get your hands on any food that is remotely American. The Japanese must not see a point in an oven so many western dishes like casserole, pizza, lasagna, or even cupcakes are hard to come by. If you find a place that sells one. The price is going to be high and the portion size is far too small. Which is upsetting. Since most Western dishes are very generous.

All of this has put me into a mode of various dishes I want to cook. Some hot, some cold. Tex/Mex is always on the list. I'm going to figure out how I will do Taquitos. If I can't purchase tortillas then I will make them myself. Its not hard, just time consuming. A nice bean dip wouldn't be hard, just time consuming. Actually, when I think of it, all of these dishes are time consuming. Back home its easy. The main difference between Japan and America is space and being limited to one burner. I have no counter. NONE! This is why a simple dish like macaroni salad took so long. Having the two burners, one to hard boil the eggs and the other to cook the noodles would be glorious.

I want to make cupcakes but I'm not completely sure on how this will be accomplished. I have a toaster oven so it might be difficult. However, I will give it a try. I'm an American. We planted a flag on the moon, I'm sure I can bake cupcakes in my toaster oven.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Japan's Obsession with Seattle


At the beginning of the new millennium, a baseball team in Seattle obtained the most famous baseball star in all of Japan. Nine years later, the player is still unmatched and destined to enter the Hall of Fame. Ichiro not only brought talent to a team but an interest in the city he plays in.

When Japanese people ask me where I'm from, I point my right hand towards an imaginary first base. Then I pull my left arm back like ready to launch an arrow out of a bow. I tell them 'the same place where Ichiro plays' with a smirk on my face. Of course I'm not from Seattle, but I proudly call Washington home. They then become highly interested in my homeland.

Ichiro did a lot to put more focus on an overlooked city in America. Personally, I think when most people think about visiting the US, they think about LA or NY. The area in between seems to disappear. There is a lot of natural wonder between those to cities and there are just as many cities with a more vibrant personality than either of the two. Seattle has a different vibe for sure. I have never been to NY but I am sure they are more genuine people you would find in LA. I never really liked that city.

I could easily see the appeal for the Japanese to visit NY. It's a sprawling metropolis like Tokyo with more diversity than any other city on the planet. Seattle? Well, it's stuck out much more in the last twenty or so years thanks to advancements in technology. Aside from that, it's been home to two musicians who changed the way we perceive music and a martial arts action star who broke the color barrier. It's an interesting city for sure. One I wouldn't mind living in. But it is a city I routinely suggest the Japanese to visit over any other.


Thanks Ichrio! You put an amazing city on the map in the eyes of your fellow countrymen!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Concerning Squat Toilets

When making brown in Japan, there are a couple of options you have as to what kind of unit, you want to dispense your waste into. First there is the Western Style toilet. They aren't everywhere but they're found in most areas of Japan. If you can't find ole' Johnny, then your only other option is the squat toilet or as some people affectionately call them; 'squatty potties'.

Last year when I visited Japan I saw them almost every where I went. For the two weeks I was here, I didn't dare bother with one. Defecating over it terrified me. I didn't know where to put my pants. And since I didn't know where to put my pants, I thought I'd excrete and whiz all over them. Now that I am here, its a different story.

There have been quite a few occasions where I have had no other choice but to use them. I now know where to put my pants (although I generally remove them completely).

I have found that I find them more refreshing on your digestive system. The position your body is in, is a much more healthy way of cleaning your bowels (no tubes are pinched off). Also, you get a front row seat, close to the action. That part, I'm not a fan of (same with the horrid smell). However, the feeling afterwards is joyous. Because I have been eating much more rice, its like I'm making bricks. Western toilets pinch off your colon and keeps it clogged. Good old squat toilets seriously let gravity take over.

If you ever travel to a foreign land that has these, please give it a try. For a number two, it feels amazing.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

TWJ - BTS 33 - Tube Tied in Japan

Wide Open Spaces.

During my time in college, I heard a story in one of my classes about perception. The story was about a tribe of nomadic people who live in a dense rainforest. Anthropologists who were studying this tribe were curious to see how they would react in a new foreign land. They took some members of this tribe, blindfolded to a great wide open plain. Once there, they removed their blindfolds to see how they would react. When it came off, the members of the tribe freaked out. They thought what they saw wasn't real, possibly some form of witch craft. Considering that the people in the tribe never left a rainforest it shouldn't be to surprising. Everything they grew up with trees and plants were just feet from them. Seeing straight for miles on end with no interruption was a new experience.
Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I can relate to how these nomads felt. For me, it was either trees or mountains. Having your view obstructed just felt normal. I never complained. I loved growing up at the foot of mountains.

The few times in my life I ventured outside of the NW and wasn't in eye line of something a few meters away, I felt out of place. Last year I took a trip to Texas. On the ride from TX to OR passing through the desert was bizarre. There was so much sky. I had a hard time coping with it.

Even the year before when I took a trip to LA and was rolling through California, my mind just couldn't fathom it. I have been all over the USA but when I was younger, it never quite clicked. Now I live in Japan, in a fairly flat area. The mountains aren't far away. Its so weird because I can see in a straight line for miles on end. You might think that after six months of living here I would be able to cope.


When I step outside, this is what I see. Its like a mind game I can't comprehend. Not what I'm used to.


Sports day at one of my schools. Hills in the background.



The bike ride home. Its a bummer this image came out so high contrast. Luckily you can see the silhouettes of the mountains, far in the distance. Growing up, the mountains were literally at my door step. Here, they are maybe fifteen miles away.

If I could compare it to anything, I would have to say this is similar to Salt Lake City. A big flat plain with mountains fairly close by. Of course, these mountains aren't as big as you might find in Utah.

Anyway, thats all for now.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Recycled Bikes

Moving to Japan requires a little bit of money. I broke the bank getting over here. Then I racked up some credit card debt, just to stay a float (something I am not happy about). For the past few months, I have been finding different ways to spend money on necessary items, on a small budget.

One of these ways is to purchase items used. A few weeks into living here, I saw a giant lot where people were bringing in bikes, washers, dryers, etc... It was a recycle center. I decided to find out if I could take a bike off of there hands. Luckily, I was able to. I purchased a working bike at a fraction of the cost of a new one.

It has a few rust spots, some dings, and dents but overall works just as good as any other bike. This same bike, new, would cost somewhere around $150. People buy these bikes frequently and is the most common one you'll see. Its known as a 'Mama Chari' which means 'mama chariot'.

Growing up, I never wanted to buy anything used. Something inside of me thought it was bad. Then I had to get by on my own money. Can you guess who was hitting up Goodwill frequently?

When you buy anything used here, it has a much higher quality to it. Either the Japanese take care of there goods really well or they are continually getting new items and tossing out the old. Regardless, one mans trash is another mans treasure.

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Teaching by yourself...

A few weeks back (shortly after the break), I walked in to one of my elementary schools, literally wiping the sleep out of my eyes. I couldn't much sleep the night before. Somewhere around 2am my head hit the pillow. Trying to readapt to a normal sleep schedule was trouble some. This was the second day into school and another day I couldn't focus.

I sat down at my desk and put down a few cups of coffee. After sometime passed, one of the officials from my school notified me that the normal Japanese/English teacher was not going to be there. At first I didn't give it much thought until she told me I would be teaching three classes by myself (first, second, and special needs). My eyes got a little wide as I heard this news. I wiped the sweat from my forehead and went straight to work.

I rang up the teacher to find out where exactly the kids left off class. It seemed to be the last thing they learned was colors, animals, shapes, and something else I can't remember. (I should remind you that I have a back log my work. Today Aug. 30th is the day this all went down. This entry is just being posted, a few weeks later. Which is partly why I can't remember. The big hand is pushing a few millimeters from ten so I better hit the hay, soon.)

After the content was figured out, I had to create a lesson plan. Review was going to be easy and the kids did great. I tossed in a few songs here and there. Lastly, I devised a game. When it was all said and done, I was surprised that it took me less than ten minutes to figure out how I was going to fill the time of a fifty minute class.

Each class moved smoothly. The kids were able to understand what I was teaching and were eager to participate. The special needs class loved the game I made so that meant something. Sometimes they have a hard time staying focused. It all went well!

Teaching is so routine that it shouldn't have been a surprise. Teaching little kids, as well is also a lot easier. Middle school is a bit more difficult and the kids actually get out of line faster. There was a day, where I had to cover for most of the class. It was too hard to do. Even if it was a class filled with students who like me. The younger ones, are surprisingly more well behaved.

During this whole debacle, one of the teachers in the school (who at one point was an English teacher) told me how impressed she was with me maintaining a level head. Apparently, when she was an English teacher, she wasn't scheduled for class. The ALT flipped out and pretty much begged her to come to class. Which meant, the teacher was at work for a day with no pay. She was glad to see that all ALTs weren't helpless souls.

Well, dats all for now........

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A giant GUNDAM I drew on the chalkboard for some of my students at one of my junior high schools. The kids loved it but a few days after, someone wrote something bad in Japanese on the board. This lead to the teachers banning chalk from empty rooms immediately. It's been months since this incident and there still is no chalk in the empty class rooms. Don't mess with Japanese teachers. Somethings I will talk about later....

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

War Museum Snafu

During the tail end of July, I spent the greater part of the morning hiking up Mt. Nasu. I did a little video on it (one of the videos I am the most proud of). Generally when I work on video projects, I don't organize the project files that well. All the video files sit in one folder that usually has bizarre or obscure name. This is always a little strange to me, partly because, when I'm on the clock, I'm super organized. Off the clock, its a different story. And this is where it really bums me out.

On the ride back from Nasu, I went to a War Museum. Most notably, a WWII museum. The place was falling apart. Equipment was rusting, the clothes were tattered, and there was dust everywhere. The reason though I spent the ¥1,000 to get in to a moldy old museum, was to see the perspective of the Japanese over a war that changed the world.

The museum didn't appear to hide the flaws or really even give a story of what happen. More or less, it had a selection of weapons, scraps from news papers, uniforms, broken down old airplanes, the list really goes on. There wasn't a bias that was created or apparent. It was more or less "Here is everything, you make up your own mind".

The reason I'm telling you this is because I spent a long time gathering footage of this place. I had some great shots and wanted to offer my perspective of this little old museum. Sadly, I won't be able to share it with you at the moment (unless I go back). My sloppy organization skills somehow got me to accidentally delete that folder, that contained all the video files I could stitch a storyline together.

I found this museum very important. In all honesty, I find all museums important. History being the most important of them all.

World War II isn't taught to much the students in Japan. Mostly, all they seem to know is what happened at the end; the fire bombing of their country, fat man, and little boy. Which, are horrible things but if you study history, you might know why Enola Gay came for a visit.

When I was in the public education system, I had some history teachers that were willing to teach students the horrible things my country did. I know plenty of stupid things America has done. No country is perfect and no country should try and hide their history. We can't change the past but what we can do is prevent the same things from happening again. With recent the recent debates between Japan, China, and Korea over text books, you can see why stories like this would never see the light of day. It's is a shame because it is important. Failures and immoral acts are just as important to learn as successful and righteous acts.

Anyway, thanks for spending a few minutes to read this. I appreciate it! Maybe I might visit that museum again sometime soon!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Burned

Now that summer is over, its time to reflect and take a look back on a few gnarly sunburns I obtained.



Surprisingly, I didn't have many good pictures of burns I had on my face. Those ones were fairly strange.

It is always hard to remember to put on sun screen. Most of the time I would go outside with long sleeves on. It was amazing at how tan my hands got. I really wish I would have taken a picture to that.

Now that we are slowly slipping into fall, my skin will return to the pale white it once was. Time to get ready for the cold season and bundle up for class. Remember, the schools not only have poor air conditioning but poor heating! ARGH!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Learning your third language...

It doesn't occur to me all to often that Japanese is actually my third language. Though my skills are lacking in my second, Spanish; it's always weird to think I am on my way towards a third. These languages do battle inside my head for dominance. And usually when I speak, one slips out in a country where few people understand it.

I have found myself on many occasions reverting to Spanish. For the longest time, I didn't know how to say the Japanese equivalent of the phrase: "How do you say ____ in Japanese" (which is a handy phrase if you are wanting to learn a new word). Usually what came out of my mouth was "Come se deci _____ en Japonese?". And yes, I spoke this phrase to Japanese people. The reaction I got on most occasions was a blank stare and a slight tilt of the head. It was quickly followed up with "Nani?" (what).

Of course, this isn't the only phrase or words I've used. I have found my self mixing all three languages on occasions in one bizarre phrase that makes only sense to me or someone who can also speak, all three language. For example, I have said "ichi mas please" (Japanese: one/Spanish: more / Eng: Please) making for an incoherent sentence.

What I have found out though that knowing some Spanish has aided me in learning Japanese. Mostly with regards to pronunciation. With Spanish, there is the "double r" which a lot of people learning Spanish, have trouble with. In Japanese, there is no 'r' or 'l' sound, its kind of a combination of the two. And to me, that sound, is produced similarly with the Spanish "double r". One word that was easy to remember was the word 'pan' in Japanese. It means bread. Guess what the word for bread is in Spanish? Exactly the same. The only other word I have came across that seems similar is the Japanese word for 'look' which is 'miru'. In Spanish, the word for look is 'mira' or 'miro' for the female and male forms.

Knowing these strange correlations makes me want to study Spanish a little more. It might be a bad idea at the moment. Then I will have a huge battle inside my head for language champion.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Your neighborhood vending machine

Sometimes I think that Japan should change it's motto from 'The Land of the Rising Sun' to 'The Land of Vending Machines'. This is because everywhere you go, you're able to find them. Some sit outside of a person's house while others might sit in front of a grocery store. Then sometimes you will see a whole lot of them, all in one spot.

I once talked about bottles and bottle sizes almost a year ago on one of my first TWJ episode (#3 if you're curious). I would have to guess, this is the first time, I have talked about the machines that dispense glorious items. And man, do they dispense a lot of different things.

The most common vending machines you will find are for drinks; coffee, tea, water, pop, or juice. The thing that is nice about a lot of these machines, is that if you want a warm can of coffee or tea; you can get it. This is great when it's really cold outside.

The second most common vending machine is that is one for cigarettes. The question Americans might raise is "how can this be possible? What about the children?" Well, the Japanese have a special card you must sign up for that has an RFID tag inside of it. You swipe the card in front of a designated area and you are now able to purchase cigarettes. Following a cigarette machine comes the beer vending machine. Some of them operate in the same fashion as cancer stick machine while others are old and require no proof of age whatsoever. These machines are a bit rare and most shut off past a certain time. Also, they are less common in bigger cities.

On the flip side, bigger cities have stranger vending machines. It's nice to find the ice cream machines on a hot summers day. I have heard that there are also vending machines that dispense a nice bowl of ramen (I wish this one was outside my apartment). As strange as this sounds, vending machines in Japan get even weirder.

I've heard there are ones that sell clothes and everyday items. Almost like a small convenience store. One of these would be handy to have nearby if, say for example, you needed soap and everything near you was closed, which I can understand. Most of these machines are pretty tame but, again of course, this is Japan and I have heard they get even more bizarre. There are few but I have heard stories of 'used panty' vending machines. Which is pretty creepy. I wouldn't want to see the people that routinely visit it.

It's nice to see the influence of a vending machine nation effect your home country. Before leaving the US, I remember I saw vending machines selling none food items on the rise. These were in places like airports or other heavily trafficked areas, like a mall. These machines seemed to sell items of entertainment like video games, movies, or iPods. This is handy if you're stuck on a lay over, have a computer and some spare time on your hands. Even the whole 'redbox' idea seemed to take a page from Japan.

That's about all I have to say on the vending machine subject. If I find any that are far different, I will be sure to post pictures.

Thanks!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

New Videossss!!! Aargh!

There are so many different kinds of videos I want to make but sometimes its so difficult to find the effort to do so. Something as simple as speaking about traffic lights, for example, is something I would love to talk about. Maybe I might talk about it here first... Give it a trail run.

I don't know. Its not that I have lost intrest, just some energy. Some of my videos have taken a lot of effort out of me. There will always be more to come! Don't worry. Just a time for me to reflect at the moment. Plus, I don't know what I am talking about.

I need some Zzz's..

Plus, I need to figure out what has gone wrong with some of my posts. Some of the newer images aren't showing up. Ugh. I will fix this weekend.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Nine Tailed Fox?

I was told a few days ago that the 'Nine Tailed Fox' is sealed only a few kilometers from me. What does that mean? Well, first I should ask you… Have you ever watched the anime "Naruto"?

If you have, well then you know a lot about it. If you haven't, well, I will give you a brief explanation in Shinto mysticism.

Essentially, the Nine Tailed Fox is the most destructive force on Earth. In the world of Anime, it was sealed inside of a young child, named; NARUTO. More or less it is a 'Jinchuuriki'. Or a tailed beast who is in the body of a normal person... Something like a demon in western culture...

Beyond that, well, honestly, I don't know much details. At the moment, I am researching them at a rapid pace. Not only do I find this interesting because it is based upon an anime I enjoy but a religion as well. Also, I have been told, the Nine Tailed Foxed has been sealed about 20 miles from me….

Not in some small child of a widely popular anime but possible nearby shrine. I am not sure of the details but once I gain the understanding, I can be sure of you, I will update you.

Seriously, stay tuned. There are a lot of details that will be quickly resolved within the next few weeks.