Tuesday, February 28, 2006

An Open Letter to the Citizens of Japan

Dear Japan,

I have enjoyed my stay in your beautiful country over the last two months. I appreciate the day to day trials of trying to figure out your language and your culture and I have found exceptional pleasure visiting the many shrines, temples, and parks in Hokuriku.

The people I have met have been nothing less than wonderful. From the lady who helped us get to Ueno station from the airport, to Emily's teachers and students, to the friends we've met along the way, you've all been great. (A special shout out goes to the drunk guy in the coonskin cap!)

I only have one problem with your country.

The name of my city is OR-LAN-DO; you keep prounouncing it OR-LAND.

I can sort of understand why you might do this. The English language is peppered with names of places like GreenLAND, IceLAND, EngLAND, and even DisneyLAND.

This is not the case with Orlando. Our city was named after some guy named Orlando who got himself killed during some war with some Native American nation. Think Orlando Bloom.

It would be like if there were a city in Japan named Hideki, a soldier who was killed in some war.

Thank you for your time and your consideration in this matter. I hope this letter clears everything up.

Regards,

Angelo

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Kani Matsuri Time!

On Saturday, while I was on my self-guided tour of the area between the Koshinokata and Rokudoji stops (Imizu City?) on the Manyo Line, I ran into some workers setting up for what looked like a festival (the twenty or so food booths were a dead give away). After a little investigation on my part, I discovered that they were setting up for the Toyama Kani Matsuri, which in English translates into the Toyama Crab Festival. The festival was being held on Sunday.

I loved the Nabe Festival last month, so I figured that I'd go to the Crab Festival this month.

I took the same tram to get there, getting on at Takaoka Station. There was a crazy old Japanese guy on the tram wearing rubber boots, a coonskin cap, and double fisting a couple of beers. To say that he might have been drunk, would be like saying that I think the Pope might be Catholic (the guy in Italy, not the ALT in Takaoka). He insisted on sharing his chicken jerkey and kept telling me that I was a "Niiccee Guuuuuy!" I told him that I liked his hat and he replied, "Niiccee Guuuuuy!" Then he asked me if I was going to the crab festival. When I answered yes, he got really excited and exclaimed, "Niiccee Guuuuuy!"

I didn't know whether to laugh or to get jealous because this guy spoke more English than I speak Japanese.

It was pouring rain when I got off the tram at the third to last stop, Higashi-shimminato. Rain, however, apparently isn't a deterrent for Japenese trying to enjoy mad amounts of crab. I couldn't list the many different types of crab without sounding like Bubba Gump, but you could eat crab prepared in almost any form imaginable, buy crab to take home and cook, or purchase crab that you could cook yourself at the festival in a tent filled with small grills with burning coals (it was perfectly safe, I swear!)

There was also a stage where they were doing various festival-ly stuff. I randomly ran into one of the other teachers from my small English school. He was with his girlfriend, who was one of the dancers performing for the festival.



There were four dance troupes performing and hers was by far the best (her dance troupe was the one wearing the red, yellow, and green jackets). It wasn't a competion, but if it had been, they would have won hands down. I don't want to put down the other dance troupes, but they just didn't compare.

My favorite food at the festival was the kani wappa. Wappa refers to the wooden box in the picture below. I liked it not because it tasted better than all the other crab dishes, I liked it because the crab was already out of the shell and I didn't have to get my fingers all smelly to eat it.

The festival wasn't all about crab, though. There were booths selling all of your typical Japanese festival snacks, including barbequed squid:

People were literally taking bags and bags of crab home:

What was the best part about the festival, you might ask?

FREE BEER!!!

That last photo was taken in the last minutes of the festival. The dancers were walking around with cases of Kirin, begging people to drink. I humbly obliged.

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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Somewhere Beyond the Sea

Emily had to work today, so I went to see the Sea of Japan, which is six whole miles away! The only problem was I had no idea where I was going, what I was going to do, or how I was going to get there. The Manyo Line looked like it went towards the ocean, so I hopped on the tram in front of Takaoka Station and rode it until I came to the last stop. It only cost 350 yen.

The tram line, which is one of only nineteen in the entire country of Japan, runs north from Takaoka towards the ocean and then turns and runs along the shore for a kilometer or two before ending at Toyamashinko Harbor, which is where I got off. Since I had no idea where I was going or what I was supposed to be looking for, I figured that I would just walk along the shore in the direction that I had just come. When I got tired, I'd just find the closest tram stop and go home.

So that's what I did.

This is the tram that I took:

When I got off on the last stop I was in an industrial area. There was a big sign next to the water that said NO FISHING. There must have been 20 people fishing there.

There wasn't too much too see, so I started wandering. This vending machine was in the middle of a bunch of wood shops:

Half a kilometer away I found this boat ship. It was displayed in a park built to, well, display the ship:

Next to the ship was the coolest playground I have ever seen:

The bathrooms next to the ship were kind of weird looking:

Apparently the Japanese can't just go to a park and look at birds. They have to create a park whose sole purpose is for bird watching. Then they have to create special bird watching areas within the park, hidden of course:

When it comes to enjoying nature, the Japanese do not mess around. At Kaio Bird Park they have built a manmade wetland, surrounded it with paved walking paths and specially made bird watching houses:

The Fukui Port is protected from the Japan Sea from the strangest looking concrete blocks. The concrete blocks look like the chemical structure for methane:

As I was walking along the levee I was hit with the overwhelming stench aroma of seafood. I followed my nose to find a seafood auction:

They were auctioning off fish too:

Behind the fish auctioning building was the prettiest shrine I think I have seen yet. This lion has her mouth open. That is how you can tell it is a her:

I found a canal that ran through the town:

There was a bridge over the canal with these cool sculptures:

The boats were lined up right against the riverwalk. Some of the boats had all the nets and baskets still in them. I thought that was cool. I would die to go out fishing on one of these boats:

This has to be the lamest graffiti in the history of graffiti:

The tram stop where I picked up the tram home was tiny:

I took this tram home:



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Friday, February 24, 2006

Japanese Student's Blog

Emily helped one of her third years set up a blog this afternoon. It is the same student, Asuka, that spent a year in Ohio and who spent the day with us in Toyama a week and a half ago.

Click HERE to visit Asuka's blog.

If you are reading this and you are in a place other than Japan, will you hop on over to her blog and leave her a comment? Tell her where you are. I know I have readers in Costa Rica, England, and several US states. She'll get a kick out of it and it will encourage her to write.

Do it for your country!

P.S. If you are a candidate to be an ALT in 2006, don't expect to have a student like Asuka. She's 1 in a million...literally.

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Hard Gay Sings!!!

Can life get any better than this?

Hard Gay, the wrestler turned Uber-GAY comedian who happens to be my new favorite Japanese celebrity, has released a version of the Village People classic YMCA. He even made a video. The song, called Young Man in Japanese, is sung half in English and half in Japanese.

Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!

I hope this version of YMCA makes its way into the Cinderella Charity Show (Yes, Adam, I'm talking to you).

If you can, take notice of the large H and G on his little shorts and Fuu written in katakana on his back. I want to get a Fuu jacket, if only to embarass Emily.



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Fourth in a Series - Inappropriate Tea House Behavior

The name of the tea house inside Kenrokuen where we had the tea ceremony is Yugao-tei Tea House.

I was right when I guessed earlier that it wasn't a tea house. It was actually a rest house, which I suppose is a house where people rested.

This series of photos was taken in one of the smaller rooms of the tea house. We were alone, so I promise that we didn't bother anybody when we took these pictures.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

(Yet Another) Kanazawa Daytrip

Yesterday I went to Kanazawa with Laura the yoga instructor/beer drinking buddy and her Japanese friend, Elli. Laura had the day off because she had to work on a Saturday a few weeks ago, Elli had the day off because she only works four days a week, and I had the day off because I'm not working yet.

Our goals for the day were to visit Kenrokuen and to find the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. Anything else we did would be bonus.

Finding the gardens would prove to be no problem, but we had no idea how to find the museum. We only knew that it was somewhere in Kanazawa. There is a tourist information booth in the train station, but it wasn't open when we first arrived, so we had breakfast at a German bakery while we waited for it to open.

After munching on a delicious cheese danish and not so delicious mushroom stuffed pastry thing-a-ma-jig, we were told by the good people at the information desk that the museum was right next to the park (woot!). We decided to go to the park first and then the museum second.

Kenrokuen is quickly becoming my favorite place in Japan. Every visit is like visiting a new park; the whole park changes along with the seasons. I've seen the place covered in fall foliage (and middle-aged Japanese people with expensive looking photography equipment) and I've seen the park covered in a meter of snow. Yesterday I visited it during the onset of Spring. You notice different things and see the park in new ways with the changing of the seasons. I know I'm not describing it very eloquently. I know, I suck. Maybe the pictures at the bottom of this post can better visualize what I'm trying to articulate.

In addition to walking around the park, looking at the budding trees, koi, lanterns, and water we visited two shrines just outside the park and had a tea ceremony in a rebuilt teahouse inside of the park.

The tea ceremony was obviously put on for the benefit of tourists who want to be able to say that they partook in a tea ceremony inside of Kenrokuen. You were given three options for tea: You could have whisked tea for 700 yen, green tea for 300 yen, or have no tea and take a look around the tea house for free.

I don't think the tea house was a tea house at all. Westerners are told that a tea house is supposed to be a rustic little shack in a beatiful garden. The main room in this tea house was 48 tatami. If you don't think in tatami, trust me when I tell you that 48 tatami is huge.

We didn't really participate in a tea "ceremony" either. A lady in a kimono came out with a mochi sweet for each of us and told us that we had to have at least a bite before she brought out the tea. After we took a bite, she brought out the already whisked, whisked tea. So much for the ceremony.

We did our best to imitate a Japanese person having tea. We admired the plates, the tea cups (are they cups or bowls?), the hanging scrolls, and the flower arrangements. We even drank our tea in three gulps. Then we went outside to admire the garden, where we were hushed for giggling too loudly.

I'm not Japanese. I just can't get it right. I'm getting used to it.

The shrines were an experience in themselves. Laura bought a book when she was in Kyoto that is a shrine and temple passport of sorts. It is basically just a blank book that you take to a shrine or a temple to get "stamped," and when I mean "stamped," I mean filled with calligraphy and the shrine or temple's official hanko. I think that the book is a brilliant idea. No two "stamps" are the same (even from the same temple) and thus no two books will ever be the same. Doesn't that make for a really unique souvenir?

At the second shrine we visited, we had to ring a doorbell to call somebody to stamp Laura's book. While the book was being stamped, Elli asked if we could have a look at the inside of the shrine. The girl had to go ask permission and she came back a few minutes later with a lady that was a few years older.

She showed us into the shrine and told us about some of the history, paintings, and other art work. Turns out that it was the oldest shrine in Kanazawa. Lucky us, all we did was walk past it and go in looking for a "stamp."

We probably spent about 20 minutes talking with the lady and her husband, who came out to meet us a few minutes later. I don't know if they or their family owns the shrine, but they told us that they lived in a house out back and that they took care of it (and stamped tourists' books). When we left, they gave each of us a little gift, to help keep the bad spirits away, or to help attract good spirits, or to help us be lucky. I'm not really sure which.

We went from the oldest shrine in Kanazawa to the newest museum in Kanazawa, the 21st Century Museum of Contempory Art. It was across the street. Literally. Only in Japan. I love this place!

My only complaint about the museum was that the special exibit we toured was a little expensive at 1200 yen. Had the museum been free, I would say that it is the greatest place in Kanazawa.

(This post is getting kind of long, so I'm going to keep this kind of short.)

We put our bags and our jackets in a locker inside the museum. The only thing I carried was my camera on it's tripod. When I tried bringing it into the galleries, I was told that no pictures were allowed.

They told me to leave my TRIPOD at the ticket and information counter. I was allowed to bring my camera into the museum.

That my friends, is Japanese logic at its finest.

Since I'm not an art buff I won't even attempt to explain the museum's contents. I would just get it all wrong (not like that has ever stopped me before). I'll leave the critiquing up to Laura.



I did, however, love the pool by Leandro Erlich. The "pool" is in an outdoor courtyard in the middle of the museum. When you stand on the edge, you can see people walking around, apparently underwater, on the bottom of the pool.

It is really just a trick.

The pool really isn't a pool at all. It is a room, designed to look like a swimming pool, with a glass ceiling. A few inches of water on top of the glass ceiling give people looking in from above the impression that people are standing at the bottom of a pool.

If I ever own a nightclub, I'm going to incorporate one of these pools into the design.

Alright, enough of my endless writings. Enjoy the pictures:


Kanazawa-eki:

More pictures of trees with yukitsuri in Kenrokuen:

Laura setting the timer on her camera:

The photo that Laura was setting the timer for:

I don't know what this is for (grinding rice perhaps?), but I thought the reflection of the trees was pretty:

Japanese kids running away from the scary gaijin taking pictures of them:

A chubby old guy doing his best to act Japanese:

Komon bridge (Komon, which is the name of the person this bridge is named for, also means anus) and a little waterfall:

Another Kenrokuen waterfall:

Ishiura Shrine, the oldest shrine in Kanazawa:

Can you guess what is in these barrels?:

SAKE!!!

And finally, the view from beneath the surface:



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Monday, February 20, 2006

No Internet

The Internet in the apartment is out for some reason and I am being forced to use a computer at an Internet cafe. The Japanese keyboard is a real pain in the ass, so I am not going to make this a very long post, but trust me when I say that it is an unique experience. I will blog about it later.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Marketing Geniuses....I mean, Bastards!

I was really looking forward to buying some discounted Valentine's Day candy at either SATY, Daiwa, or AEON.

Before Valentine's Day, Emily and I looked enviously at all the different types of holiday chocolate. There were chocolate gorillas, chocolate paint brushes, boxes of chocolate....well, you see where I'm going with this.

I thought that the chocolate would be discounted ON Valentine's Day, you know, to help them move the product before the big day ended. NOPE.

Then I thought that the chocolate would be discounted the day AFTER Valentine's Day, you know, to make room for the next holiday's items. NOPE.

Well, actually, I was half right.

I was walking through the rows of old Valentine's Day candy at AEON yesterday when I saw the workers rearranging all of the chocolate and putting signs up that read "White Day March 14." I found out later that they did the same thing at SATY.

Unbelievable!

The stores repackage the same candy from Valentine's Day, let it sit on a shelf for a month, and try to sell it at full price for White Day!

I tell you what, I'm going to be REALLY upset, if the candy isn't marked down on March 15.

REALLY, REALLY upset.

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Yellow Fever



So this really has nothing to do with Japan specifically, but since half the guys on the JET program are here because they have Yellow Fever, I figured that it would be appropriate for Livin' la Vida Takaoka. I found it on Google Video. It was made by Wong Fu Productions.

Good job guys.

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Monday, February 13, 2006

American Men: Move to Japan

For weeks now, there has been a section in every grocery, department, or corner store dedicated to the holiday which is dreaded most by every boyfriend, husband, or secret admirer in the Western world.

That holiday is, of course, St. Valentine's Day, and that holiday is TODAY.

Say what you want about Japanese culture. It might seem illogical and incomprensible. It might seem a century behind and shrouded in mystery. But I tell you what, they got it right when it comes to St. Valentine's Day.

In Japan, WOMEN are responsible for giving gifts to MEN on this most loveliest of all holidays. That's right, you heard me correctly. If you are a guy and you have a girlfriend, wife, lover, love interest, friend with benefits, or whatever, YOU DO NOT NEED TO GET THEM ANYTHING FOR VALENTINE'S DAY.

Is that a stampede of Western shoes I hear?

You're not completely off the hook though. One month from today, on March 14th, is White Day (or is Ides of March Eve?) On White Day, the man that received chocolate from a lady friend on Valentine's Day must return the favor by giving her white chocolate (or white lingerie).

I prefer the Japanese system.

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Speech Contest!

On Sunday I attended the 7th Annual Toyama English Students' English Presentation 2006, which is just a really important sounding name for a speech competition. This is a big deal for the Japanese students of English and for the JET ALTs that are supposed to help them win.

All of the best English students at each school in the prefecture are selected to compete in one of three categories: recitation, speech, or research presentation. Emily's school had one student doing a recitation, two students who wrote speeches, and four students who worked together on a research presentation.

The kids all worked on their speeches for weeks, and like I mentioned before, both ALTs at the school helped them. I'm not sure of everything the ALTs did to help the kids, but I know that Emily recorded her own voice giving each speech, so that the students could practice and listen to a native speaker giving the speech.

It must have helped, because not one of her kids went home empty handed.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Sunday was a really fun day. One of Emily's third years met us at Toyama Station in the morning and then spent the whole day with us. I won't mention any names, because I want to keep it anonymous, but this kid is amazing. She spent the 2004-2005 school year in Ohio, so her English is mind blowing. She talks just like an American high school kid; It's a little unnerving.

Even though it was Sunday and even though she wasn't competing in the speech contest, she wore her school uniform. This wasn't particularly out of the ordinary, since kids wear their school uniforms every day of the week, but it did lead to some funny situations with the JET ALTs.

A typical conversation went something like this:

JET: "So are you competing in the competition today?"

Student: "No, I'm just hanging out. I came to watch."

JET: "Your English is unbelievable! So why are you wearing your school uniform?"

Student: "Because my school is the best school and I'm proud to wear it."

It made me laugh because the ALTs always express aggravation whenever a Japanese person compliments them on their Japaneseness, which is a word I just made up to describe the ability to speak Japanese, use chopsticks, and eat gross food. They were doing the same thing to this student, they just didn't realize it.

The first presentation we watched was the recitation by one of Emily's first years. There were five or six different recitations that the kids could choose to recite, but one was inevitably favored over all of the others. As a result, the audience was treated to the same recitation over and over and over and over. This year's most popular recitation was a narrative by a person dying of cancer and giving advice on how to lead a happy life. How uplifting!

The speeches were a little more interesting. Each student wrote thier own speech on a topic that interested them. One of Emily's students talked about the recent earthquake in Pakistan and the international community's response. The other student talked about the responsibilities that developed nations had towards developing nations.

We tried to watch all of Emily's students' presentations, but one of the speeches conflicted with the research presentation, so we had to choose between the two. We chose to watch the speech.

And now, drumroll please, pictures:

Want an explanation for the Yebisu Black advertisement at the top of this post?

After the speech contest several of the JETs, Emily, her student, and I had dinner at my favorite okinomiyaki restaurant. After we ate, Andres Papa, in his amazing English accent, ordered a second beer by saying, "Yabisu Black, onegai shimasu." It was one of the best moments of my life.

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Friday, February 10, 2006

In the News: Royal Succession

I've read CNN reports that Junichiro Koizumi has decided to scrap his plan to submit a bill to the parliament to let women inherit the imperial throne because Princess Kiko's pregnancy has raised hopes for a male heir.

I'm talking about the Japanese princess, not the whale from Free Willy.

First of all, who cares?

Second of all, who cares? Isn't Japan in an economic slump? Shouldn't Japan be more concerned with that? Doesn't North Korea have nukes? Does anybody else have a problem with this?

The press is making way too big a deal out of this. They put so much pressure on these princesses to have MALE babies, that Princess Masako, wife of Crown Prince Naruhito, has been battling with a mental disorder brought on by the stress of producing only a daughter. What a sin! She's been hiding from the public for two years as a result.

Current law doesn't allow for women to ascend to the throne, which is problematic because no male heirs have been born since 1965. There have been only daughters. If they don't change the law (or if a male heir isn't born soon), there won't be a legal successor to the throne.

If this is really such a contentious issue in Japan, then I would have to say that an EMPRESS is EXACTLY what this island nation needs.

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Monday, February 06, 2006

Dinner

Emily and I had dinner at La Dolce Vida last night. Tonight I'm making tuna melt sandwiches, which Seth Cohen and Anna Stern used to eat during the first season of the OC.

Ummmm.....

Oops, did I just admit that I watch the OC? Alright, I have a confession to make:

I am a fan of the OC.

I tried to ignore it for months, but Emily's constant viewing and re-viewing of her season 1 and season 2 DVDs eventually got the best of me. I finally sat down and watched an episode with her. Then I watched the entire first season...this weekend.

Now I have a crush on Kelly Rowan. Who cares if she is 11 years older than me? I also totally think Summer is hot! Mmmmm......Rachel Bilson.

It's embarrassing, I know. I didn't mean for it to happen. It just kind of took over my life and before I knew it I was hooked and couldn't stop. This isn't a cry for help; It is more an admission of guilt.

I need to stop.

I have given my life up to OC Anonymous' 12 step program:

1. We admitted we were powerless over the OC; that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a power greater than Peter Gallagher's eyebrows could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to people that were more beautiful than us as we understood them.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of each of the OC's minor characters.
5. Admitted to ourselves, to another OC fan, and to a rich girl with blonde highlights the exact nature of why the OC is the greatest drama EVER.
6. Were entirely ready to have McG ignore all of the characters' defects and inconsistencies from season to season.
7. Humbly asked Him to ignore Julie Cooper's shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons Ryan Atwood punched, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, unless it gets in the way of Ryan scoring with hot rich girls.
10. Continued to take personal inventory of every major and minor character and when we were wrong promptly post it on the Internet.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with the OC, as we understood it, praying only for knowledge of what will happen in the next episode.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other OC-aholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

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Sunday, February 05, 2006

I've got Saipan on the brain

I read the online version of both the Saipan Tribune and the Marianas Variety everyday; I guess I just like to keep up on my Saipan news. Hell, I even read stories about Saipan in the National papers.

I came across THIS column that talks about Dad while I was reading today's Saipan Tribune. Listening to other people's memories of my father has become a little hobby of mine. I'm constantly amazed that one person could have meant so many different things to so many different people. I can't wait to put it all together and publish my findings.

Here is just one more person's take on his life:

(I am reposting only the parts that discuss him. Click HERE to read the full article.)

...I was seated on a table with the late Justice Ramon Villagomez during the first foray I made to the Saipan Chamber of Commerce meetings. I did not know who he was but I recognized the name. I was impressed by the formidable presence of the man, is speech and demeanor. Were I to use the language of the medieval saints, he would have been characterized as one with charisma. He had a reputation of being straight-laced, stern, proper and ethnocentric. He turned out to be a very warm and welcoming person, and when he learned I was new on island, and had just assumed responsibility for the congregation gathered at Immanuel United Methodist Church, he offered his time and office should I have any questions at all about the Commonwealth and its people...

...Former Supreme Court Justice Villagomez sailed in one of the voyages between Satawal/Polowat and Saipan after he retired from the bench. Inexplicably, after
the voyage, the justice would succumb to a heart failure that would leave him in coma until the completion of his personal journey. His reputation of being a practical visionary in defense of the rights of persons of NMI descent allegedly led into the promulgation of the provision of the Covenant between the "Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands," in political union with and under the sovereignty of the United States of America, on land...

Friday, February 03, 2006

Saturday!

Who want's to make a snowman?

Yesterday I was going to write about how the snow is really disappearing and how it feels a little warmer. Yeah right! Last night was the coldest night I've seen since I've been in Japan. On top of that, it started snowing again.

And guess what?

It is still snowing and snowing and snowing...

Emily spent the night with one of her 3rd years. They had a sleepover party. She went straight to the girl's house from school, so I didn't see her at all yesterday. I spent the night with some of the JETs. We ate at the white gyoza restaurant, went to the crepe restaurant, and then spent two glorious hours at a karaoke bar. We stayed out really late; I didn't get home until 2:30 AM.

She'll be home in about 90 minutes. I need to clean up the apartment.

Do I look like a terrorist?

I must.

I went to drop off my visa paperwork today in Toyama.

The immigration official at the front desk looked at my two pictures, then my passport, compared the pictures to my passport picture, made me take off my hat, compared my face to the passport, then compared my two pictures to my face, and asked me to sit down.

Twenty minutes later, I was escorted out into the hallway, handed all of my paperwork, and was asked to return with a staff member from my anonymous English school.

Did I mention that it costs 320 yen and takes about 30 minutes to travel between Takaoka and Toyama? Each way?

I think I need a drink.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Doings

I had my first enkai with my new company on Tuesday night in Kanazawa. It wasn't what I expected, probably because my boss is American. Nobody made a speech, there weren't formal introductions, and there weren't huge amounts of alcohol consumed.

After the enkai, about half of the group, including myself, went to a karaoke club. At the end of the night we took a picture. Then we took a crazy picture. Then we repeated the process with everyone else's camera.

Yesterday I met with my new boss and signed my contract. He also gave me everything that I need to get a visa. Today I am going to the office in Toyama to drop off all of the paperwork.

Woot!

I've been feeling kind of blah the last two days, so I haven't had the energy or the inspiration to draw up a more descriptive telling of my tales.

This will have to do.