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.


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.


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.


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........


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....


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


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.


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.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Funny Signs

The poster to the right is one that was up at one of my elementary schools for quite a while. It's an informative picture on what kind of foods you need to eat, to produce the most ideal bowl movement.

Something like this might not happen in the US. Some parent might complain seeing it's too much of a 'taboo' subject.

The Japanese have a different view point on this matter. Things that come 'naturally' are generally not a taboo subject. Of course there still is a time and a place for talking about it, it's just they aren't as shy to talk about something like this. I could go down to my local store and buy a hat that's shaped like a pile of poop. There would even be the possibility I could wear it at school and it wouldn't be a big deal. Though, I probably won't do that. Hahaha.

I'll touch on this more as the subject will surely come up in various forms in the future. Enjoy your breakfast!!!

Just what everyone wanted to see...

TWJ - BTS 33 - Tube Tied in Japan

Thursday, September 2, 2010

One Awesome Can of Mt. Dew

In America, video games are slowly passing movies as the for the biggest media money maker. In Japan, video games have been at the top spot for sometime. This means, you can find video game characters on about everything. As you can see, Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid, graciously appears on a can of Mt. Dew.

This shouldn't seem as a huge surprise to most people. Many might say "Well, the Japanese love video games". Well, I should tell you, they love video games more than you might imagine.

Arcades are still a huge business here, something thats on life support back in the States. Even with the small little hick town I live in, there are plenty here. Every time I go on a bike ride to a section of town I have never been to before, I come across a new arcade.

Walking into them is almost nostalgic. Sure the Japanese have a different taste for video games than Americans (they sure love their fighter games as well as rhythm based ones). But growing up, I spent hours upon hours at arcades. My parents generally dropping me off at them as I spent countless hours playing classic beat em' ups like TMNT, letting someone feel the rather of my final Shoryuken, or simple crossing the finish line dead last; as they went shopping. (love that run on sentence?)

I really do love arcades just as much as consol gaming. Its a different atmosphere and I am glad I can still get a taste for it while I'm here in Japan.

Within the next few months, I will surely visit my sister in S. Korea and get the taste of another style of gaming which is also on life support in America, LAN gaming. I know its going to be fun but I am going to get served by some ten year old Korean boy playing Starcraft II. But, I look forward to it.

Be sure to expect me talking about video games as well as anime a bit more in the near future.