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


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


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.

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

-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?

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

-There are way to many stoplights in this country.

-Why do Japanese women flush multiple times when urinating?

-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!
Sit on a tack!
Sit on a tack!
And if the Devil doesn't like it
He can sit on a tack!
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?