Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Freak





Pretty much the only thing Emily's kids see when they look at her is HAIR.

Monday, January 30, 2006

A Blog by any Other Name...

...would still be as poorly written.

Some of my readers (I'm coming to terms with the fact that there may be more than two of you) have been reading this blog since I first applied for the JET program.

I've changed the name of this blog twice since that time. It started off as "How I Got Into JET." I'm not sure if that was a premature or an ironic name, seeing as I didn't get into JET. Anyhow, I changed the name soon after that. After sending her an email, Team Red's Most Dedicated Canvasser sent me an email with "Leavin' on a JET Plane" as the subject line. I couldn't resist.

(On a side note, my most fond memory of Phoebe is from the night before all the LCV canvassers evacuated Orlando ahead of an oncoming hurricane. Allan Oliver was standing in front of the whole staff telling us what we were going to do and what needed to be done before we left the city. When he asked if there were any questions, Phoebe raised her hand and asked, "Allan, can we stay up ALL NIGHT and scan?" God bless you, Phoebe.)

And we're back.

Seeing as I never got to leave on JET plane, it turns out that name was a little premature, too. I had to come up with (or rip off) another catchy phrase to expain my situation. I ended up with "Livin' la Vida Takaoka." I kind of like it.

It explains our predicament. We're two clueless Americans living life in Takaoka, but now a new chapter in our lives is about to begin.

Emily is pregnant.

Just kidding. I'm starting a new job this week.

I wrote about this job last week. It is at an English school that teaches kids aged 0-14 years. I'm going to be teaching in Kanazawa, Takaoka, and Toyama. So I get to travel AND the school reimburses all of my travel costs. It is a similar set up to JET. I'm going to be an ALT; they just don't call it an ALT. For those of you who don't know what that means, I'm going to be the native speaker that assists the Japanese Teacher of English in a classroom setting.

And by the way, I'm going to keep the name and location of said school anonymous so that I don't have to worry about getting fired for blogging (again).

I'm pretty stoked. I'm going to get to do a lot of new and exciting things...beginning tomorrow night, when I attend my first honest to goodness enkai. Woot!

I'm filling out all of the paperwork for my working visa on Wednesday. Then as soon as it is approved, I get to start teaching the kids. Double Woot!

The process of getting this job involved the following: I found a sign in a department store, called the number, scheduled an interview for the following week, went to the interview (which was within walking distance of my apartment), and was offered a job that evening. If I had the foresight to obtain a working visa before coming to Japan, which I don't think is actually possible, I could have started work the following day.

Applying for JET was a little more arduous. I had do write a two page essay on why I wanted to go to Japan (click HERE to read it), fill out a ridiculous application, get two letters of recommendation, send them my transcripts, a sample of my blood, photocopies of my diplomas, and a medical form. Then I spent $540 on a suit, $100 on a hotel room in Miami, donated a fattened calf to the Japanese Embassy, and spent Buddha knows how much on gas getting from Orlando to Miami and back. This process started sometime in August 2004 and didn't end until October 2005. Then I didn't get in. Ugh.

Oh yeah, I also fought with Emily for a year over numerous things relating to our JET experience (she was wrong most of the time, naturally). Fun stuff.

So anyways...

You can probably expect plenty of Kancho stories in the near future.

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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Yesterday in Pictures

This is Toyama Castle. Just like Kanazawa Castle (and every other building built in Japan before 1945), the castle was rebuilt after it was burned (or bombed) to the ground. The most amazing aspect of this picture is the blue sky...the first one of the year.

This one is for Mom (if you don't know my Mom, I'll give you one try to guess her name). The literal translation of this restaurant is "Which Bistro?" I don't know why there is a dog.

When I was taking this picture of a bike in front of a shop, the shopkeeper ran out and exclaimed in perfect English, "this is my bike!" When I told her that I liked her sticker, she said, "yes, no war."

Yet another view from the roof of Daiwa. Notice how there are hardly any tall buildings. The tallest building in Toyama might have fifteen stories....and there's half a million people that live here.

There is a market on the top floor of the Daiwa in Toyama. If you are Japanese, it probably smells delicious; if you are American, well, it definitely smells kind of, um, Japanese.

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Toyama Fun Times

Emily and I spent most of the afternoon exploring Toyama. It was the prettiest day that we've seen in weeks. This picture, taken from the rooftop of the Toyama Daiwa, proves it.

Tonight is movie night. We've already watched Legally Blonde with Reese Witherspoon and Luke Wilson, now we're watching Team America, which is now one of my top ten movies.

I'll blog about Toyama tomorrow.

"Derka derka, mohammed jihad......derka derka, backa lacka dacka."

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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Anecdote from Home

I recieved this via Instant Messenger. Kevin is my eight-year old brother.

We were listening to a story on NPR about this 19 year old buffalo who died. He had been raised from birth by a guy out in Montana, and the buffalo got "discovered" by Hollywood when he was about a year old, and so he played in a lot of movies, including "Dancing with Wolves". Kevin was listening and asked "I wonder what part he played?"

Thought you would get a kick out of that.

-Mom

Friday, January 27, 2006

Super Exciting Daibutsu Video

Watching this video will save you 100 yen and the cost of a train ticket to Takaoka.



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LSAT, Here I Come

I took the SAT in 1995. I studied for weeks, maybe months. I had two textbooks and a workbook for the math and a workbook for the verbal. I worked through all of them from cover to cover. I can remember sitting at the dining room table at our house in Winter Park pouring over problems.

I did pretty well. I got two wrong on the math section for a score of 780 and I got a handful wrong on the verbal for a score of 690. I remember answering every question on the test and not leaving any blank. My combined score was a 1470.

The only reason I bring this up is because I just took a practice LSAT. I didn't do as well as I had hoped. Let's just say that I'm barely above average.

Up until now, I was kind of hoping that the LSAT would be a cakewalk. I'm glad I figured this out now, instead of when I was taking the test in June. As soon as I computed my score I started to think about all the time that I put into studying for the SAT.

Looks like I'm going to have to do the same thing to get my LSAT score up.

Bummer.

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Who is "THEY?"

So I've noticed that I refer to the Japanese as THEY. It has been brought to my attention that this habit is a sure sign that the speaker is a noobie to Japan.

Well, I'm a noobie to Japan.

Deal.

This is how they said no THIS year

For what its worth, and I don't think it is worth anything, here is the letter they sent to JETs not granted an interview this year:


Dear JET Program Applicant,

Thank you for your recent application to the 2006 Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program. The JET Program Review Committee has now processed and evaluated all applications. Unfortunately, we cannot offer you an interview for this year’s program. Please be aware that the decisions made by the JET Program Review Committee are final, and there is no appeals process. We ask that you please refrain from calling or emailing our office to ask specifically why you were not selected for an interview because it is our policy not to comment on this information.

Generally speaking, the following are some of the most common reasons applicants are not selected: missing documents (such as official transcripts, proof of graduation, recommendation letters, or proof of study abroad), unofficial documents, and/or failure to meet eligibility requirements or to effectively address necessary points in statement of purpose.

We sincerely hope that our decision will in no way diminish your interest in exchange and teaching opportunities with Japan and encourage you to try again for next year’s program. If you would like to apply for the 2007 program, please visit our website at www.us.emb-japan.go.jp/JETProgram/homepage.htm in September 2006 to access the 2007 application. Carefully reviewing application instructions is very important and may improve your chances of selection in the future.

Once again, thank you for your interest in the JET Program. You will be getting a hard copy of this letter in the mail within the next few days. We wish you the best of luck as you continue in your career.


Sincerely,

JET Program Office

Embassy of Japan

I think it is identical to the one they sent out last year and, although I didn't keep it, I think it is also identical to the one they sent to me in 2000. At least they are consistent. If you didn't get in this year, there's always next year and there are plenty other ways to work in Japan or score with Japanese girls. Please don't commit seppuku if you didn't get an interview.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

So like I was saying...

I boarded the West bound train with Emily yesterday at 8:06 AM. She got off two stops later at Fukuoka, while I stayed on the train.

Thirty minutes later, I got off in Kanazawa, bought a few onigiri to snack on throughout the day, and hopped onto the Kanazawa Loop Bus, headed towards Kenrokuen. Emily and I visited this park about two months ago, but I wanted to go back and see the park covered in snow.

It was certainly covered in snow. In fact, since it had been snowing since I woke up, even the covering of snow was getting covered in snow. There is an upside to walking through a park during a blizzard though: most people don't want to do it. As a result, I had the park almost entirely to myself (although there were a handful of diehard snow watchers out there with me).

The leaves and the snow weren't the only thing that changed inside the park. All of the important places inside the park are now marked with (not-so-) little wooden signs written in Japanese, English, and Korean that explain what you are looking at. They said really important things like: This is a tree. This is a rock. This is a bridge.

What is there to say about going to a park during a blizzard in January that wouldn't make me seem like a tree huggin' liberal? Nothing, that's what! I am a tree huggin' liberal! Which is why I spent almost four hours just walking around this park and the park across the street, Kanazawa Castle Park.

I don't want to bore you with the boring details. I'll just post a few pictures and let them do the talking for me. Don't think me a liar when you see blue in some of the pictures though. Although I was pelted for snow for most of the morning, it was sunny for about an hour, hence the blue sky.



Like I said, I went to Kanazawa Castle Park after meandering through Kenrokuen a couple of times. Kanazawa Castle Park, which is about twice the size of Kenrokuen, is literally right across the street. All you have to do to get there is to cross a bridge that goes over Ohori Dori (that's the name of a street).

I was prepared to pay an entrance fee, but was pleasantly surprised to find out that this park was free, unlike Kenrokuen, which costs 300 yen. There is only a fee to go inside of the rebuilt castle. That will set you back 300 yen.

I spent most of my time milling around the park. With the exception of the huge stone walls outlining every feature of the park, Kanazawa Castle Park has more of a European garden feel to it. Kenrokuen, which is a Japanese garden in every sense of the word, is made up of dozens of narrow winding paths; Kanazawa Castle Park is more of a network of mostly grassy fields (albeit covered in 3 feet of snow) connected by long stone pathways.

The reason for the difference is more historical than aesthetic. Those really aren't grassy fields; they are the foundations for Kanazawa Castle, which, just like just about every other building built in Japan before 1945, was burned to the ground. What are now grassy fields used to be buildings filled with samurai, geisha, and ninjas (and the Anjin-san from James Clavell's SHOGUN). In fact, all of the old-looking buildings have only been recently rebuilt; the most recent one was only finished in 2001.

I was really hesitant to pay the 300 yen to go into the castle (or what I would call the castle). I wasn't really sure what was in there and I wasn't sure if any of it would be in English. I don't mind paying 300 yen to walk around Kenrokuen because nature doesn't need a translator. Unfortunately, history and architecture do.

In the end I decided to just go for it. 300 yen is about what a beer costs. It wouldn't be a huge loss if everything inside the castle was in Japanese. It was just one beer.

So I paid my 300 yen and went in. I'm glad I took the gamble, because the castle turned out to be really interesting.

They (who exactly is they?) don't call the building you go into Kanazawa Castle, it is called Hishi Yagura, Tsuzuki Yagura, and Gojikken Nagaya. Yagura is Japanese for "turret" and I think Nagaya translates roughly into "store house." So basically, the main part of the building is a storehouse and there is a turret on each end. The store house was two stories high and each turret was three stories high; for 300 yen, you were allowed to roam free throughout the entire building on a self guided tour. All you had to do was to take your shoes off first.

The store house and the turrets had no hallways or rooms; It was all just one open space. Although you were free to go in any direction you wanted, there were arrows and ropes guiding you towards the most convenient path. You started on one end, took your shoes off, moved towards a turret, went up the stairs, walked through the second floor of the store house to get to the other turret, went downstairs when you got to the turret, and then walked back through the first floor of the store house to put your shoes back on and go back outside.

Along the way there were signs written in Japanese, English, Korean, and Chinese along with a talking mechanical tour guide at all the points of interest inside the building. You had the option of listening to the tour in each of the four languages.

I could spend a chapter talking about all of the little intracacies inside the castle, but that would bore my readers to death (both of you). Instead of droning on about all the things that I found interesting, I'll just list them off.

  • The entire building was handicapped accesible, complete with an elevator and a wheelchair escalator
  • There were hatches underneath the bay windows that could be opened up to throw rocks (or arrows or bullets) on attackers that were climbing up the castle wall.
  • The entire building was made with ancient buidling techniques and 72% of the wood came from Ishikawa Prefecture. I'm surprised that there are any trees left in that part of Japan.
  • The building cost 4.2 billion yen (just under $40 million) to construct. They have plans to reconstruct the entire castle. I think they are waiting for the trees to grow back.


After the castle, I left the park, only to go to another park, Chuokoen. The entire place was covered in snow (surprise, surprise) and there really wasn't much else to see there, so I just went walking.

I was trying to find Oyama Jinjia Shrine, but I must have taken a wrong turn and ended up in front of the Daiwa with the Louis Vuitton and the Gucci that I talked about in the post about my previous trip to Kanazawa.

I had no idea Kanazawa was this small! The big parks are right down the street from the shopping district. Who knew?! (Appartently everybody but me)

It was about 1:30. Having been on the go since 8:06 AM, I decided that now would be the perfect time to enjoy a tall marshmallow mocha from Starbucks. Since it had been hours since I'd eaten my last onigiri, I also treated myself to an Italian Salami sandwich. The kind people at Starbucks even heated it up for me.

Only a Northerner (or the British...I guess Canada, too) would understand how I felt at that moment. It is impossible to describe to a Floridian the comfort and contentedness that comes along with drinking a hot chocolate drink with marshmallows on a blustery winter day when you have been out in the cold. It is like getting 8 hours of sleep. Or getting a massage. Or hearing that the Yankees lost the World Series (again). There is nothing like it.

So anyways...

I finished up my coffee and sandwich and got ready to go back out in the cold. I was supposed to meet Emily at the North exit of Takaoka Station at 4:45. That meant that I'd have to catch the 4:06 train from Kanazawa. That gave me two more hours to explore the city.

I thought I would go explore Oyama Jinja Shrine (confident that I could find it now after spending 30 minutes pouring over my map) and then head over to the Samurai district, but I started getting tired and only made it to the shrine.

On the way to the station I walked through the same open air market where I bought the fruit on my last visit to Kanazawa. I figured out that the name of the market is Omi-Cho. I love looking at foreign produce, but I really need to learn how to say, "I don't want to buy your silly over-priced hairy crabs. I just want to look at them."

I got to the station just in time to catch a train back to Takaoka.

One last thing and then I swear I'll finish this post:

I think I understand why the Japanese all sleep on the train. It's because it is so darn comfortable! At least in my part of Japan, the scenery is really pretty (when you're not going through the city), the train is really warm, and the motion of the cars gently rocks you to sleep.

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For SL and JC (not Jesus Christ)...

...and any other alternative energy enthusiasts (dorks) out there.

I took a day trip to Kanazawa today and saw this from one of the highest points inside of Kenrokuen (the big park that I wrote about in a previous post). It's nothing much, just a huge frickin' windmill in the middle of the biggest city in my part of Japan. NO BIG DEAL.

Wouldn't it be great to see one of these in the Orlando or Richmond skyline?

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

LINK THIS!

Hey JET (and now Saipan) bloggers,

I have a proposition:

Take a look at this blog. If you like what you see, put a link on your blog to this url. Leave me a comment or send me an email letting me know that you've added the link and I'll add a link to your blog on this blog.

Sound like a good idea?

Thanks,

Angelo

P.S. Trolls will be deleted (unless I think you're funny)

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Monday, January 23, 2006

It is snowing AGAIN


We got about 5 inches of snow last night.

I love it; Emily hates it.

My Japananese Winter WONDERland kicks the Angry Sicilian's little American Winter WONDERland every day of the week.

In other important news:

I am going to experiment with adding tags to my blog. I'm not really sure how they are supposed to work or what they are really supposed to do, but I'm going to put them on anyways. I'll report back if I think the extra work is worth it.

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Just go to City Hall...

I just got back from applying for my Certificate of Alien Registration, or Gaijin Card as it is more commonly called. I was told by my potential new boss that I would need to acquire one of these babies in order to obtain a working visa. He told me that he thought the "Takaoka Office" was near the "Takaoka Station." Emily said to just go to City Hall.

On Saturday, I went to the Takaoka International Center in Daiwa and the lady at the desk confirmed that I would need to go to City Hall. She told me that I would need to bring my passport and two 35mm x 45mm photos. She also gave me a map and put an "X" on City Hall.

This morning, I collected my photos and my passport, opened up my map, and walked out into a blizzard in hopes of finding City Hall.

I didn't have too much trouble getting to the place where my map was marked with an "X." I was, however, a little confused when I got there. My map said that I was looking for "Takaoka City HALL." The 8-story brick building in front of me had a sign out front that said "Takaoka City OFFICES."

Sure, you're probably thinking, "What an idiot! Of course this is the where Angelo needs to be! He should just go inside!"

That's because YOU weren't there. You see, I wasn't 100% sure that I was in the right place, mostly because all of the street signs, if there were any to begin with, were in JAPANESE. When you are lost to begin with, throwing in an extra complication just makes your brain shut down.

I looked at my map one more time, walked around a little bit, and then with the confidence of a japanese schoolgirl, I walked into the building.

Success! I was in the right place.

But...

Crap! What do I do now?

I looked around the reception area for a couple of minutes trying to figure things out. There were a lot of people waiting around, for what I don't know, but they made me hesitant to just walk up to a desk clerk and ask about the gaijin card. There didn't appear to be a queue and I didn't see a numbered ticket dispenser, so I was at a loss for what my next move should be.

So anyways...

Five minutes after I walked in, a trio of Canadians (Yeah, Canada!) walked in, asked the receptionist where to get a gaijin card, and walked over to desk #5, which, at the moment, was empty. I overheard them, introduced myself, and sat back as they tried to apply for their gaijin cards.

When they walked over to the desk, an attendant ran over and handed them the application forms. The pair of Canucks applying for the cards, apparently the third was their guide, had their pictures ready, but unfortunately, one had forgotten her passport and the other had forgotten his address.

Thank you, Canada. Now get out of my way.

It was my turn. I pulled out my pictures, my passport, and Emily's gaijin card and started to fill out the application, which was in Japanese and English (for the most part).

There were some other things that the lady helping me had to know. She spoke no English and I speak no Japanese, so we exchanged a number of nervous laughs, hesitant OKs, and did our best to get through the process. She needed to know how many people lived in my house, so she drew a picture of a house and some stick people and threw out a few English words. I hope I understood her to mean "how many people live in your house." It would be really embarrassing if I really told her that I have two kids or that I have two wives.

When we were done with the form she gave me a packet of garbage bags, a city map, and some tickets to the art museum and Zuiryuji Temple. Then she gave me a certificate that told me to come back for my card (if it is approved) after February 14th.

That was it. It seems easy in retrospect, but I was sweating bullets while I was going through it. I kept having thoughts like, "I sure wish Emily had said that I need to go to the first floor of the HUGE red brick building with eight FRICKIN' floors!" and "WaaaaaaaaaHHHHHH!!!"

I just get so freaked out every time I am in a situation where it would be a hell of a lot easier if I spoke Japanese. I get so intimidated and apprehensive when I know that I should be able to understand (at least somewhat) the person talking to me.

I should really get used to the fact that I sound like an idiot and that people think I'm a dumb foreigner. I should just accept it, embrace it, and act accordingly.

I should think of the motto we used during my tenure at LCV: Adapt. Improvise. Overcome.

Except in my case it would be: Attempt. Give up. Charades.

Or I could just learn Japanese.

GRRrrr....Grunt....Frustration....

I've always been a proponent of other languages, but now I'm going to point to my experience trying to get my gaijin card at the Takaoka City Hall (or was it City Offices?) as the moment that solidified my belief in multilingual whatever it is.

At least I know that I will never look down upon a person that doesn't speak English again. I didn't make a habit of doing this before, but I have to admit that I got frustrated having to wait on Brazilian tourists when I was a server at Disney. I'll be a lot more patient when I go home (but hopefully I'll never have to be a server again).

Sunday, January 22, 2006

It's Monday!

Emily and I had a pretty low key weekend. We kept mostly to ourselves and didn't see any of the JETs...although we were supposed to. We were SUPPOSED to go to a charity show audition on Sunday afternoon, but we forgot to go. Either nobody told us, nobody reminded us, or everybody assumed we already knew. I'm not sure which it was, since nobody told me.

After spending the afternoon cleaning, we spent Saturday night eating a nice shabu shabu dinner at Jacasse, which is a restaurant near Takaoka station. Then on Sunday we spent the afternoon at Aeon, even though we were supposed to be at the audition in Toyama.

I also spent countless hours playing Kingdom Hearts. I've played and beaten the game before, but I wanted to play through it again in preparation for the release of Kingdom Hearts II. The game is already available in Japan for the low, low price of 7,500 yen, but it is, surprisingly enough, in Japanese. I'm waiting for the release of the English version on April 15th.

Emily spent the hours I spent PLAYING Kingdom Hearts WATCHING Kingdom Hearts.

Isn't she the greatest?

Now if I can only get her to like kung fu movies...

Words You Need to Know

YELLOW FEVER (yel'o fe'ver) n. a colloquialism used in the English-speaking world, which represents an intense sexual attraction of a non-Asian, typically a white man, to Asian women, primarily East Asians (such as Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Taiwanese), to such an extent that it is difficult or impossible for him to form healthy, meaningful relationships with women of his own race, or even non-Asian women in general.

KANCHO (カンチョー) n. a game or trick often played in Japan by young school-aged children; it is performed by clasping the hands together so the index fingers are pointing out and attempting to insert them into someone's anal region when the victim is not looking. It is similar in spirit to the wedgie or a goosing in North America.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

DID YOU KNOW??

Godzilla is a Japanese rendition of Chuck Norris' first visit to Tokyo.

English Salon in 38 Days

I went to the Takaoka International Center in Daiwa today to get some help with my Certificate of Alien Registration and to sign up for the English Salon on Tuesday.

I found out that they didn't need anybody for the Salon on Tuesday. They only recruit one native English speaker per Salon and the spot for Tuesday is already filled by Laura T. They do, however, host a salon twice a month. The next one is on Valentines Day, so I passed on that one and signed up for the Salon to be held on February 28. (If you are in Takaoka and reading this, you might want to go to Daiwa and sign up for the Salon on February 14th. It is easy money.)

They pay you 5000 Yen (about $50 American) to come in for an hour and a half to talk about home. I'm going to talk to them about Saipan. I'm excited; I've already started making a list of things to bring in.

The lady at the desk also helped me with my Certificate of Alien Registration. She told me what I would need and how to get to Takaoka City Hall. Since today is Saturday, I'm going to have to wait to get the card on Monday morning.

Emily and I don't have any plans for this evening. We've spent most of the day cleaning our little apartment. It was a top to bottom cleaning; we went so far as to even wash the blankets and scrub the shower.

On another note:

I wrote a post on Big Daikon that links to the entries on my blog where I talk about my JET interview last February. I've been getting a ton of hits as a result.

It seems like only yesterday that I was going through the same emotions that all those people are going through...only to get rejected in September. But you know what? I'm here, aren't I? It all worked out in the end, didn't it?

It would have been nice to have been accepted to JET. They would have paid for my ticket, made getting a visa easier, and I'd be making more money, but then I wouldn't have been able to go to Saipan for a month, I probably wouldn't be living with Emily, and I wouldn't have had all the free time that I have had so far. I like the way things have turned out.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Judo, Kendo, and Dancing in Fukuoka

I visited Emily at Fukuoka High School yesterday. Although I would have loved to see her teach a class, I didn't get the chance because it was a Judo/Kendo/Dancing Day and most of the classes were canceled.

I'm sure the day had an official name, but I'm just going to call it Winter Sports Day. Since the kids can't play soccer and baseball during the winter months (I think it has something to do with the 8 feet of snow), the boys practice judo or kendo and the girls learn how to dance.

Yesterday was the day where they get to show off what they have learned (or something like that); The boys competed in a martial arts tournament and the girls put on a dance show.

The first thing Emily did when I arrived was to take me on a tour of her school (the first thing I did was to take off my shoes and put on a pair of guest slippers). She showed me the classrooms, the computer labs, the vending machines, the four different gyms, the library, and the staffroom. The entire school is a bit on the chilly side, except for the library and staffroom, which are the only two rooms in the entire school (from what I can tell) that are heated.

The entire hierarchy of the school can be determined by the arrangement of the desks in the staffroom. The vice principal's desk is up against the windows, towards the center part of the room. He sits with his back against the window, and from that position he can watch over everybody in the room (and ensure that no one can see that he's been playing freecell on his computer all day).

The rest of the desks are lined up perpendicular to the windows and the vice principal's desk. They are arranged so that there are three desks pushed together side-by-side facing in one direction, with another three desks pushed together side-by-side, pushed right up against the other row of desks, but facing in the opposite direction. It reminded me of my seventh grade math class. All of my classmates were at different levels and my teacher would make all the kids that were at the same level arrange their desks in the same manner.

I counted six rows of desks arranged in a likewise manner in the staffroom. The arrangement of desks made an American office, with its endless rows of cubicles, look like a palace.

Emily's desk was pretty small. She, along with all the other teachers, has a two drawer filing cabinet and a really small desk. Instead of describing the desk in detail, I'll just post a picture of it (take note of the Diet Pepsi hidden underneath the desk).

When she introduced me to all of the other teachers, they were all very polite in welcoming me to the school and to Japan in general. The students, well, they were a different story.

The first conversation I ever had with a Japanese student went something like this:

Student: Is this your friend?

Emily: Yes, he is my boyfriend.

Me: Hello.

Student: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!!!!!!!!! (Runs away screaming)

Most of the other students were a little better. While all of them were still shy, most of them managed to introduce themselves. One of them even had the cajones to tell me that I was handsome. I had no idea that beer bellies were sexy!

The student performances were something else. The girls put on a great show. I'm not saying that they were Broadway caliber; I'm just saying that they put a lot of work into them. I'm not the biggest fan of interpretive dance, but I can appreciate creativity and hard work, especially when you have to perform with bare feet in a freezing auditorium in skimpy costumes. I was wearing long pants, shoes, a sports coat, was sitting 4 inches away from a heater and was STILL freezing. Good job, girls!

I didn't realize until I started writing this, but I didn't meet a single male student yesterday. Oh well, at least I got to watch them beat the crap out of each other.

Well, this post has gone on long enough. I don't want to bore my readers (both of you). I'll just end with a picture of what has to be my favorite little eccentricity of the school, the different color shoelaces on student's shoes.

The shoelace color corresponds to the student's grade. Third year's are yellow (not pictured), second year's are red, and first year's are green. I think the laces were the inspiration for the terror threat level colors in America (gotta watch those third years - their laces are yellow).

Thursday, January 19, 2006

More Asian Backstreet Boys



This one is not nearly as funny as the original, but I thought I'd put it up anyways. They act just a little too goofy in this one. In the first video, which is still ridiculous, they really look like a boy band. In this video they just look like a couple of idiots.

Click HERE for more info on the Asian Backstreet Boys.

I did a little research on them and found this:

The duo's name is called 后舍男生 or in English "Back Dormitory Boys". Their spoof music videos have been selected by Motorola China to promote mobile phones.

The Back Dorm Boys are 韦炜 (Wei Wei, height 189 cm or 6'2") and 黄艺馨 (Huang Yi Xin, height 173 cm or 5'8"). They are university students at 广州美术学院 (Guangzhou Arts Institute) majoring in Scupltures.

The third dorm mate in the background is 肖静 (Xiao Jing) and in most of the videos he was playing the computer game "Counter Strike".

Everybody Loves Hard Gay



This is a 7-minute capture from a Japanese variety program. The story-line of this sketch goes something like this:

Hard Gay” (by comedian Masaki Sumitani aka “Razer Ramon”), who is kind of a Japanese cross between the Village People and Party Boy from Jackass, thinks that the “Hoo!” (or is it "Fuu?") in Yahoo! is stolen from his often used exclamation. He goes to visit Yahoo! headquarters in Japan to investigate.

He shows off his skills making copies, in the marketing department, and in the Yahoo! massage room. He then tries to prove his popularity in Japan by selling his little hat on a Yahoo! Auction. The hat quickly jumps to over $250 American in three hours.

At the end of the video they find a role for him at Yahoo!, but I don't think it was what he expected.

Something tells me that this character wouldn't go over to well in the heartland of America.

Crappity crappity

My computer seems to have downloaded a virus. I am sorry if I gave it too you. I actually think it may have downloaded a few viruses. These are the symptoms:

1. Whenever MSN messenger or AIM opens up, I send a message to everybody on my buddy list. Sorry about that, everybody.
2. My computer just shuts off
3. When I turn my computer on, the firewall and the automatic updater have been turned off.

This may take a little while to fix. I need to back up all of my photos and documents and then it will be time to perform system surgery. I may end up doing a partial or full system restore. If I do that, Mom, I'm going to need you to send me my copy of Microsoft Office. Sorry. I hope you still have it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Two Months

I arrived in Japan exactly two months ago today. Holy crap, where does the time go? I feel like I just got here. I guess that month in Saipan really screwed me up.

I got a job yesterday. It is at the English school that I mentioned in the last post. Since I am currently on a tourist visa, I can not work until I get a work visa, which should be a lot easier now that I have a sponsor. I am being told that it can take anywhere from two weeks to two months to get the visa. I hope it is closer to two weeks.

I have also been contacted by somebody in Florida about a job with the Department of Environmental Protection. When it rains, it pours, huh? I wish FDEP had contacted me 12 months ago.

In other news:

Emily and I have started going to a weekly yoga class on Wednesday nights. The yoga instructor is an another American JET, so even though there are a few Japanese girls taking the class, the class is in English. I've never done yoga before and I'm really enjoying it. The stretching reminds me of all the martial arts classes I took as a kid and the days, long gone now, when my body was actually in shape.

After yoga last night we went out to the movies with Laura, the instructor, and one of the Japanese girls from the class. We went to see Proof with Gwyneth Paltrow. The movie sucked. It was one of those movies that tries to make you think, but it was a miserable failure at doing so.

The experience of going to the movies was actually more interesting than watching the movie.

Did I mention that it was ladies night?

I find myself amazed and confounded by the pricing scheme of Japanese movie theaters. I'm not going to give specifics, because I'm sure that every theater is a little different, but I'd just like to remind you of what I said in a previous post, that going to the movies in Japan is ridiculously expensive.

There are, however, certain times when it is cheaper. Ladies night is one of them. On a given day of the week, every female that buys a movie ticket pays about half price. It sucks to be a guy on those nights. They also give discounts on the first and last movie showings every day. The late night movies aren't too inconvenient for the movie watcher, either. We saw the late show last night and it was only 8:20 PM.

So, just to recap:

Job - Good
Yoga - Good
Japanese Movie Theater - Good
Proof - Bad

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Just had an interview

I just had an interview with an English school in Takaoka.

Teaching at the school looks like a lot of fun. All of the students are between the ages of 0-14, so you play a lot of games with them. And anyways, kids are immensely more fun to be around than adults. Adults are always talking about politics and money.

I hope I get the job. Although I sent in a proposal to the CNMI, I am not sure if it will be accepted. I also may not want to take the job in the CNMI if certain things were to come to fruition there (more on that later, I promise).

Emily and my original plan was to come to Japan for two years. We'd love to stick to the original plan, but we have things pushing and pulling us in several different directions.

The only thing that I know for sure is that I am taking the LSAT in June and that I want to enter law school for the Fall 2007 semester. Everything I do between now and then has to build towards that goal.

What will I do next year...

This morning I recieved confirmation from the Marianas Resource Conservation & Development Council that they received my proposal. Now I just have to wait.

It kind of reminds of what I had to do for JET: Wait, wait, and wait some more.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Takaoka Gets Nabe Fever!!!

The literal Japanese-English translation of nabe is "pot" or "saucepan." The English translation of the Japanese phrase for Nabe Festival is therefore the pot festival. I think I'll continue calling it the Nabe Festival.

Nabe also refers to a type of japanese dish prepared in a hot pot, some of the more popular varieties being oden, sukiyaki, shabu shabu, and chanko nabe. You basically just take a whole bunch of ingredients and throw them into a pot of boiling water. Delicious!

The Nabe Festival in Takaoka is sort of a celebration of all the things that Takaoka is famous for: bronze casting and being close to the ocean...they're not really famous for much else. Sorry.

They set up the festival so that it was spread out all over downtown. Nabe was 300 Yen per bowl, but if you bought meal tickets ahead of time, they were 250 Yen each. Instead of making the nabe in a small pot, like, say, one that could fit on a table, they make the nabe in HUGE bronze pots the size of small swimming pools. There was one big pot near the station, one near the department store Daiwa, and one inside the gates of Sekino Shrine. There were also roasted sweet potatoes next to the Daibutsu, which is Japanese for Big Buddha (we should start calling Alex Daibutsu, what do you think?)

Here's the lowdown on the nabe, ranked in order of palatability for the unadventurous Westerner:

The best nabe was the one in front of Daiwa. It was a seafood chowder (DID YOU KNOW that any soup made with potatoes is classified as a chowder?) It was just like a New England chowder, but with some shell-on shrimp, scallops, and clams thrown in for good measure.

Second best was the kani (crab leg) nabe, not neccesarily because it tasted good, but because each bowl of nabe had a huge frickin' half a crab stickin' out of it! The crab was a little messy and required a lot of work, but like I said, THERE WAS A HUGE FRICKIN' HALF A CRAB STICKIN' OUT OF IT!

I did not like the gottsu nabe, which was made from chunks of skin-on salmon, shrimp with their heads still on, and an assortment of mystery dumplings. Once I peeled it, the shrimp tasted very good, but the whole dish itself was a little too fishy for my tastes.

I almost forgot about the sweet potatoes. They rocked! 200 Yen bought you a brown lunch bag sized portion of steaming hot sweet potatoes. The volunteers had a really interesting way of cooking them: They filled wooden boxes with potatoes, dumped in a bunch of salt, and cooked them by stacking the boxes three high high on top of a pot (nabe?) containing some boiling water.

There were also other vendors selling other types of nabe (we didn't try any) and a wide assortment of Japanese sweets and pastries. Click HERE and HERE to see some of those sweets.

How would you like to see some pictures from the festival?

People lining up for kani nabe:People lining up for gottsu nabe:That's a mighty big pot:These are just some of the ingredients in the gottsu nabe:Emily tries to get around the shrimp heads in order to get to the oh-so-fishy gottsu nabe:This guy was selling grilled fish on a stick:If I had the 3rd largest Bronze Buddha in the whole of Japan, I would use it to sell roasted sweet potatoes, too:That there is some hot potatuhs (please read that statement as if you were from the Deep South):Mmmmmmm.....kani nabe:Crab in a pot:

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Asian Backstreet Boys


Alright, so these guys aren't Japanese, but it sure is funny.

"Special" Pokemon Master


Just another reason to hate the South...I mean love America. Thank you, Japan, for importing Pokemon to our shores.

Such a Small Town

A report on the Takaoka Nabe Festival is in the works, but before I post it, I just wanted to share a picture of Takaoka taken from the roof of Daiwa, one of the department stores in the center of town.

From what I have picked up, the Japanese consider Takaoka to be out in the wilderness of the boonies of Japan. I'll accept that, but then why does the city stretch as far as the eye can see?

Can you read Japanese?

No promises on the translation, but if you would like to read my website in Japanese, click HERE.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Nabe, Nabe, Nabe TIME

Having slept on the proposal (figuratively, not literally) it doesn't seems as bad as it did at 2 AM. I'm going to finish it off in the next couple of hours and then send it off.

In more important news:

The gods have smiled upon the Takaoka Nabe Festival (and ME) and have delivered a beautiful, sunny day. In a few short hours I will be walking through the streets of Takaoka feasting on hot, steaming bowls of nabe (whatever it turns out to be).

How did it get so late?

Where did the day go? It's already 9 PM.

Thanks to the rain, I only went outside once today. I went to SATY with Emily to get some chow. I spent most of the day working on my proposal for the job in the CNMI. I think my proposal is crap, but then I always think that everything I do is never good enough.

I'm sure that part of my personality will cause me to go through hours of intensive therapy when I am older.

Well, I'm still working on the proposal. I guess I had better get back to it. Tomorrow, Emily and I are going to the Takaoka Nabe festival. We have a combined 8 tickets for nabe, even though there are only 3 types of nabe. I guess we'll each get to try each one...and then go back to our favorite one for seconds.

I hope it doesn't rain tomorrow.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Third in a Series - Gohyakurakan

The Gohyakurakan are 500 statues of Disciples of Buddha. Each one is unique and hand painted. I'm sure that each statue has a name and a story...I'm just sorry that I don't know them.